August 4, 2007

Forget reading glasses. Get distance glasses.

The NYT has an article today -- it shot to the top of the "most emailed" list -- about the indignity of the far-sightedness that comes with aging... and how especially distressing it is for us Baby Boomers. The article is in the Business section, because there are some big commercial opportunities, especially in reading glasses sales:
Corinne McCormack, 53, started her own eyewear and accessory company in Manhattan in 1993 when she noticed that people were walking around with Rolex watches, Jimmy Choo shoes and $10 drugstore glasses. Hers average $50 a pair, and business, she said, is great.

Craig Roessler, 60, a school superintendent in Silverton, Ore., said he prefers not to have to worry about losing his reading glasses and has devised a loose strategy. In addition to one pair of prescription reading glasses that he carries to work, he keeps eight or so pairs of inexpensive glasses scattered throughout his daily surroundings: two in his car, one in his golf bag, one in his desk drawer at the office and several around the house. He has also noticed that at the clubhouse of his golf club, a pair of reading glasses is tied to the computer terminal.

At Romano’s Macaroni Grill, a nationwide chain of Italian restaurants, reading glasses are provided upon request, as are large-print menus.

The glasses are often kept at the hostess station, and they often disappear.

“We used to have two to five pairs to give out, but they’re all gone,” said Kelsey Betzelberger, the hostess at a Macaroni Grill in Hillsboro, Ore. “People just forget to return them. We got replacements, but those are gone, too.”
I have about 20 pairs of reading glasses -- upstairs and downstairs at home, in my car, in my office. But, you know, if you use this strategy, you will also be losing them and breaking them a lot. And also buying new ones for very little reason. This new pair may look sort of cool or cute, but the fact remains: Reading glasses make you look old. It's the way you wear them, pulling them down low on your nose -- because that really does adjust the focus -- and peering over the top. You can take them off every time you need to look out at the less-than-close world, but that looks bad too.

I've been doing these things for a few years, but recently I figured out a different strategy, one that I think few people have discovered. I was already near-sighted and plagued with astigmatism. I got my first glasses when I was in fourth grade. I hated glasses and got contact lenses as soon as my parents would let me -- when I was 13. In recent years, I was wearing the contacts all day, but still wearing reading glasses. That meant I was wearing glasses and contact lenses most of the day, since I read and write so much of the time. It also meant that in my most conspicuous activities -- teaching or giving some sort of public presentation -- I had to have the glasses and keep taking them on and off.

The solution was to get contacts that give me perfect vision at the reading distance and prescription glasses that correct that vision for distance. With "transition" lenses and appropriate frames, the glasses look like sunglasses when I'm outdoors. I can also wear one of my new lenses and one of my old lenses and go without glasses altogether, which is a bit odd, but not as bad as it sounds. I'd heard of that solution before, but discovered the reading contacts/distance glasses solution for myself. You might want to try it. For me, the reading level prescription is perfectly fine for face-to-face conversations, walking around a store, and various common activities, so the "distance glasses" are much less of a distraction than the reading glasses. They are mainly sunglasses, and putting on sunglasses feels completely different from putting on reading glasses. Instead of old and limited, you feel young and free.

22 comments:

PatCA said...

I have an astigmatism too and can't really find a good solution. When I'm going on to dinner, for instance, I will wear the one contact lens for reading. But if I'm driving, I need the distance too--I'll try your remedy. I have never found a contacts combination that lets me read comfortably for a long time, so I have to wear glasses for writing/editing/computer work.

Meade said...

"This new pair may look sort of cool or cute, but the fact remains: Reading glasses make you look old. It's the way you wear them, pulling them down low on your nose -- because that really does adjust the focus -- and peering over the top. You can take them off every time you need to look out at the less-than-close world, but that looks bad too."

Gillian without glasses: Cute enough


Gillian with glasses: Way, way cute

Irene Done said...

Sunglasses -- that's Anna Wintour's strategy. Speaking of Wintour, somehow Meryl Streep made glasses seem incredibly sexy in Devil Wears Prada. Didn't she wear reading glasses?

Of course I always enjoy the Althouse blog but the glasses advice and haircolor blogging are tops for me. I'm completely sincere about this.

rhhardin said...

Vanity does you in every time.

Just get spectacles with progressive lenses and use them for everything. It works fine.

(=``No-line'' bifocals ; they have a peculiar pattern where things will be sharp, so you have to learn to point your nose at what you're looking at, but they're really nice once you master it.)

And you can take them off and your eyes work like a microscope, if you're nearsighted, another advantage ; count the little eyes on a fly at a moment's notice.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

I'm extremely nearsighted. Started wearing glasses when I was 9 years old and was stunned to see leaves on trees and that there was something strung between the telephone poles. Wore contacts until I got the baby boomer eyes and needed reading glasses.

My solution is to have a pair of stylish work glasses for computer and office use and just walking about the house. I have a pair of progressive sun sensitives for driving and outdoors that look like sunglasses when they get dark.

Since I got the reading glasses my neck strain from working on the computer is gone and quite often I forget to put on the driving glasses for short distances.

It's a bitch getting old.

Dale B said...

I've been wearing glasses since I was 13. I tried contacts a couple times but was never really happy with them. Too much fussing. Plus I felt naked without glasses. It seemed like every foreign object in the universe was aiming for my eyes.

I use rhhardin's solution. Continuous bifocals work great, especially if you're in front of a computer all day. It does take a while to get used to them but they're well worth it.

As for appearance, I figure that as long as no one screams and runs or points and laughs, I'm doing OK.

Moira Breen said...

"As the Vision Fades, the Indignities Grow"

How pathetically Boomer (and how NYT) is that headline? "Indignities"? As a presbyopic 49 year old I certainly pine for the lost perfect vision of my youth, and sometimes find the need for aids to my vision cumbrous and annoying, but I can't say these things have ever provoked feelings of shame in me. I rather like peering over my glasses with authoritative menace. What exactly am I supposed to be embarrassed about here? Have I done something wrong?

Why is it that Boomers - those great enemies of restraint, form, and self-control (see under "maintaining a sense of one's own dignity"), those great promoters of "being natural", "letting it all hang out" - are such prissy little twits about aging?

Reading glasses make you look old.

Yeah. I am old. (Well, emphatically middle-aged.) You gotta problem with that, punk?

Synova said...

I don't mind the *look* of glasses and when I got them this spring I deliberately picked out a pair that I thought looked fun and eccentric. ei. "old" but goofy.

What bugs me, having had perfect eyesight all my life and now needing reading glasses is that I can't quite read without them, and when I wear them it helps so very much, and when I take them off I feel like I'm totally blind. I know it's not just subjective, I really can focus better before I wear them and then I think my eye relaxes and that's why wearing them seems to make it even worse.

But I realize that I'm whining and that other people have a much greater hassle than I do. I just always figured that glasses actually fixed the problem, and that I'd get them and that it would fix the problem.

ricpic said...

I buy all my glaqsses at the dollar store and they're great!

Cedarford said...

End it. No more glasses. LASIK.

Ask around when you get to NYC. Who does the most surgeries with the least problems, how long they are good for in boomer-age populations, where West Point sends all their cadets to...

Of course many who do find their constant daily adjustments, wear of glasses is part of their muscle memory, their personality, and normal appearance. And keep some glasses as "old friends".

rhhardin said...

LASIK doesn't work for old people, who have an accomodation problem, not a focus problem.

You can LASIK to see distance fine, or to see near fine, but you don't get both, and wind up needing glasses for the other in any case.

Except there's a school that does one eye for near and one eye for far, and you learn to cope that way.

Ann Althouse said...

"End it. No more glasses. LASIK. Ask around when you get to NYC."

Please. I don't view NYC as a place to get better health care. Madison is the best place in the country for these things. If I wanted cutting done on my eyes, I'd want it in Madison. The specialists here are great. But I may not be such a good candidate.

As for bifocals or trifocals. Sorry, I feel disoriented in glasses. I have a lot of nearsightedness and astigmatism and the distortion with glasses is a problem. Even for around the house after I've taken out my lenses, I have 2 pairs of glasses, one for far and one for near.

Freeman Hunt said...

I am very farsighted and have astigmatism and laziness in one eye. I got my first pair of glasses at age four, first contacts at age five, and hard contacts at thirteen. I lost one of the hard contacts during a school play rehearsal and didn't want to tell my parents because a replacement was going to be $112, so I went without glasses or contacts for a month. By the end of the month my eyes were strong enough that I could "strain" to about 20/20. To maintain that ability, I rarely wear my glasses--only for long periods of reading or when I'm extremely tired in which case I can't control my lazy eye without the glasses. If my eyes are dilated, I still test extremely farsighted, but in regular, non-dilated life, I see just fine.

cheddar said...

Ummm- why haven't you tried bifocal contacts? I'm wearing mine right now. I see great.

invernessie said...

Have you tried monovision contacts? I use this method and it works great. I had one eye corrected for distance (the stronger eye), and one corrected for reading. I can read incredibly small print with no problem, and the distance works in almost all situations. As I travel on business every week, I had a "booster" pair of glasses made to up the correction in my reading eye for driving in unfamiliar or night situations. Works out great.

Ann Althouse said...

Invernessie: I have this option using one of my old contacts.

Cheddar: I don't think I'm a candidate for that.

amba said...

I was already near-sighted and plagued with astigmatism. I got my first glasses when I was in fourth grade.

Ditto ditto.

Started wearing glasses when I was 9 years old and was stunned to see leaves on trees

Ditto.

Please. I don't view NYC as a place to get better health care.

So ditto.

Why is it that Boomers ... those great promoters of "being natural", "letting it all hang out" - are such prissy little twits about aging?

Ditto. (Moira, this may amuse you.)

Theo Boehm said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Pogo said...

I grow old … I grow old …
I shall lose my reading glasses times untold.

Shall I get LASIK in NYC? Do I dare fix my cataracts and teach?
I shall wear progressive lenses, and read upon the beach.
I have seen the optometrists pointing, E to E.

I do not think that they will point to me.

Theo Boehm said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Christy said...

Nice, Pogo!

Anyone haunted by Burgess Meredith in that old Twilight Zone episode, "Time Enought at Last?"

Original Mike said...

Corinne McCormack, 53, started her own eyewear and accessory company in Manhattan in 1993 when she noticed that people were walking around with Rolex watches, Jimmy Choo shoes and $10 drugstore glasses. Hers average $50 a pair, and business, she said, is great.

LMAO! I buy my glasses at the dollar store. But then I don't own a Rolex and don't have a clue who Jimmy Choo is. But I do have reading glasses in every room of the house and am well along the way to my retirement saving goals.

The priorities some peole have astounds me.