Chapter 7: Presbyopia – Old Age Sight

Do we necessarily become defective in eyesight as we get older?
If so, how can some at 60 have better sight than some at 30, and
some at go better sight than many at qo? It is not enough to
say these are exceptions, for in a piece of mechanism such as
that of the body, law works. Even exceptions are but the effects
of causes. To find the cause of the good sight at go and the
cause of the old-age sight at 40 will help to get rid of the wrong
usage which causes bad sight and inculcate the right causes for
perfect sight. True it is that most people’s bodies `shrink’ with
age, but the only effect on a healthy person should be that they
cannot go for as long walks as formerly, or read for as long a
stretch of time as formerly. In other words, they get tired more
quickly.

If the eyes are used properly all the life they will not deteriorate, provided that the body remains healthy. Rarely are eye
diseases found unaccompanied by some bodily trouble or other,
while deficiency of sight at the near point can be the result of
overstrain or of a general run-down condition of health. It is
wise to bear in mind, therefore, when the trouble first becomes
apparent, that it has not necessarily come to stay. A few weeks
of rest from too much near work, plenty of palming, or extra
sleep, a good eye lotion and a few exercises will often put the
matter right, and if rest from near work is impossible, then extra
care must be taken to relax for a few moments often during the
day.

Sometimes this defect is accompanied by the feeling of strain,
or tightness over the eyebrows, or at the temples. Sometimes the
eyes feel hot and ache; sometimes after reading a little while
the eyes refuse to see anything till rested, and then see again
normally for a time, until another feeling of blankness comes
on. The first sign is, as a rule, that the book is put further away
from the eyes, or taken to a `good’ light. The print becomes
blurred or grey instead of black. In fact, the ability to focus
at the reading distance has been lost.

What, in practical terms, does this mean? It means that the
eyes have lost the power to see the individual letters in words,
and words in a line, if the print is very small. If we strain to
try to see we make an effort outward to grasp the whole word
at once. What we have to do is to try to focus a letter at a time.
As is pointed out elsewhere, the eye is incapable of seeing too
large an area at once, but focuses the minutest points one after
the other, so quickly as to give the impression of one letter or
object. The figure on the cinema screen looks one figure, while
in point of fact it is made up of innumerable recordings.

Many people in middle age raise their brows, or frown, and ,
most have lost the habit of blinking when reading. The position
of the eyes when reading has been already mentioned. Remem-
bering that convergence is easier when the eyes are directed
downwards, to exercise by turning the eyes well downwards,
both straight downwards, diagonally downwards to each side,
and also in a semi circle from about shoulder level to the chest
or lap, will be found of great help in ordinary cases.

If there is congestion across the brow, this should be taken into
consideration. If we have pain in the body we know the value
of hot-water or cold compresses. Why not give the same treat-
ment to the pain in the forehead. We know the relief of massage
when we are overwrought; the same relief can be gained for the
forehead by massage. In middle life most of us have our scalp
stretched backwards, resulting either in lines across the brow or
a tightness, as though the skin is stretched over a drum. If the
scalp is drawn forward and held down for minutes at a time

it can be done when we are reading-great relief will be felt.
To massage, firmly and strongly just above the eyebrows with
the finger joint, two or three movements slowly at a time, three
or four times during the day, even if it hurts at first is of great
benefit.

Eye lotions can be used as a temporary help, but if the eyes
are improved and the blink established the natural oil is better
than any eyebath.

If, when the eyes are closed, bright colours or lights are seen,
it is a sign that the retina is much strained, and an endeavour
should be made to forget the colours and be conscious only of
blackness. Most people like to think of and watch these colours,
but it is a very bad practice. They will fadg out if no attention
is paid to them.

The habit of forcing the eyes should be avoided, while remembering that we read with the mind and not with the eyes. It
does not help us to see better through opera glasses if we grasp
them very firmly, and it does not help us to see if we hold the
eyes firmly. In the same way we do not need to write with the
eyes, yet how often do we fix the eyes firmly and rigidly all the
time we are writing. All the eyes are useful for in writing is to
keep the lines of writing straight and on the paper. If typing
can be done without looking at the keyboard, surely writing can
be done without fixing the eyes on the pen or paper. The same
is true of needlework.

When playing patience, doing a jigsaw puzzle or crossword
puzzle, an endeavour should be made not to take in too large an
area at once. All three games are good for the eyes if the attention through the eyes is moved over the cards, board of crossword, but they are all very bad for the eyes if the sight is
stretched to take in the layout, pattern, or letters and spaces in
the crossword.

Some people find knitting difficult, because they focus the eyes
on the needles without letting the eyes follow the movement of
the needles. Incidentally, knitting.is often very uncomfortable
for those suffering from imbalance.

We should never force the eyes to go on seeing when they are
too tired. Even a little break by looking into the distance, blinking, palming, stretching the eyes sideways, or downwards towards
the book and out into the distance a few times will help.

With regard to taking to glasses, we are told:

It is not advisable to give glasses too strong for Pr.; Lpresbyopia}. . . . [They] do not have the effect of hastening the
depletion of accommodative action as do glasses that are too
strong. It is better rather for them to be adjusted for a fairly
lengthy reading distance than one that is unduly nearly (p.
241.)

A well-known and well-loved woman who has lately died
came to me when nearly 8o. She had been told not to read-her
one joy in the evenings-as her eyes were being badly strained.
She was very short-sighted, but as regards reading the only thing
that caused the trouble was that she never blinked. It is with a
feeling of gratitude to Aldous Huxley that I remember this case,
for it was through his book that she came to me, and I was able
to make the last months of her life happy.


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