Reading as We Age

My reading glasses and e-reader with larger font size

For many of us, it starts in our forties. We start noticing that our arms aren’t long enough to hold books where we can properly focus on them.

Sometimes it seems harder to focus on the small print. E-readers are a blessing for being able to enlarge the font size.

Drug store reading glasses work for some and suddenly these glasses spring up everywhere in the house where we read–the easy chair, the bedside, the kitchen.

Then you start noticing that the light you used to read by somehow seems dimmer. You change the bulb but it is still dim. It’s not the light. It is your eyes, as cataracts start to form and reduce the amount of light that can get through the lens of your eye.

The irony is that by the time we have more time for reading, we do not read as easily. Does that sound familiar? First we saw it with our parents. Now it is us. We do not read as effortlessly, and sometimes, it seems we have to work harder at attending to what we are reading.

One of the things I’ve discovered is that as we age, a reader’s best friend is his or her eye doctor! Sometimes it is as simple as telling you what power of those readers are right for your eyes. At one time, I had a single prescription for my near-sightedness. Then I adjusted to progressive lenses for different distances. You read through the bottom part of the lens.

At my last visit, I happened to mention my book blog and how many books I read a year. My doctor recommended a separate reader. It was a good move. The whole lens is a reading prescription, which means I don’t have to look only through the lower part of the lens, raising and lowering either the book or my head as I read down the page. I’ve noticed that I read more easily as a result.

I likely have cataract surgery in my future as do many older readers. Everyone I know who has had it talks about how things seem brighter, and sometimes, their visual acuity is improved.

Eye doctors watch for other problems that rob us of vision. My mother had macular degeneration, as does one of my siblings. It is a result of a deterioration of the center of our field of vision through changes in the retina. My doctor recommended taking an AREDS formula that prevents progression of macular degeneration. Whether it prevents or delays onset is an open question, but with my family history, I’m willing to try it. Glaucoma, a build up of pressures in the eye fluids can also damage our sight. Catching these things early can prevent or limit vision loss. The yearly eye check up is more important than ever.

My mother was a reader (probably where I get it from). She adjusted to vision loss, but as it progressed, she gave up reading. She never liked audio books. I think of the losses of vision loss, reading would be one of the greatest for me. The saying, “so many books; so little time” is especially significant given my family’s history. It both makes me selective, and contributes to a “read while you can” mentality.

Hopefully my eye doctor’s ministrations will avert or delay vision loss. At very least, his prescriptions and better lighting make reading easier. It is a risk to rush through books, a kind of FOMO (fear of missing out), abetted by reviewing. Perhaps a better approach is to take a breath and allow myself to engage a book at its own pace–some pondered, some studied, some drunk up quickly with satisfaction while others savored. I have to remember that you don’t want to finish a great book too quickly or finish books not worth one’s time.

Perhaps my engagement with books will end as it began with having books read to me, either from a recording or a person. And maybe I will remember the power of words, of fitly written sentences and gripping stories, the very things that taught me to love books and reading as a child. And maybe that won’t be so bad.

One thought on “Reading as We Age

  1. Boy do I relate to this post! I’m also having a problem with focus in the last few months…a year… The world is weighing on me and there are times I can’t concentrate and times when I don’t want to take on another person’s misery even if only a fictional character.

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