As we age, the muscle around the lens in our eyes diminishes in strength and doesn’t allow us to focus up close the way we used to.
“It’s an unavoidable anatomical change,” says Dan Leberer, optician and co-owner at Visualeyes.
The question becomes how to deal with it. Most people’s first solution is to grab what are essentially a pair of magnifying glasses — commonly known as “readers” or reading glasses. “It gets most people out of jail for the moment,” says Leberer, licensed optician for more than 30 years. “People can self-medicate with reading glasses.”
It’s an old wives’ tale that reading glasses will make your eyes weaker — but surely your eyes will know the difference in various pairs of readers.
“You can run into Target and buy a sleeve of five pairs of reading glasses for $10, or you can come into one of our stores and buy a quality pair of reading glasses for $79. Some people question my sanity, but it’s like the old saying goes — you get what you pay for,” says Leberer.
The immediate difference is in the look — high quality or cheap plastic.
“A pair of nice reading glasses don’t look like two-dollar readers,” says Leberer. “It makes for a nicer presentation when you pull a nice pair of glasses out of your purse or your jacket pocket when you’re reading a menu or you’re at a meeting.”
They’re also more practical, says Leberer. “There are metal hinges. We can adjust them to suit your face and your ability to see clearly. You can’t do that with the cheap readers.”
And, he says, no doubt about it — with the better optics and ground lenses, you’ll see better. “Your eyes will know the difference with better, cleaner, tighter optics and no distortion.”
That’s not to say the cheaper readers have no place. Leberer gives the same advice to clients and friends.
“I say buy a sleeve of those department store glasses and consider them disposable. Stick them everywhere — the glove compartment, the kitchen drawer. But if you’re going to sit down and read for an hour? Buy yourself one nice pair of reading glasses.”
When to move beyond the reading glasses to multifocal lenses can be a challenging question — but it’s also unique for everyone. Leberer says it’s time to start considering a lens design change when taking glasses on and off becomes too aggravating or distracting.
He says that too often, people who are forced into progressive lenses or bifocals give them up and don’t go back, even when they truly need them.