reading glasses on a bookWho said reading glasses had to be frumpy?

Since entering my 50s I’ve had to keep a 6x magnifying mirror stuck to my bathroom mirror so that I don’t end up putting mascara on my lips. Presbyopia (an age-related condition whereby eyes have trouble focusing on objects that are close) is a natural byproduct of getting older, and I have it in spades. According to the Vision Council, the leading trade organization representing the optical industry, an estimated 90 million people in the U.S. either have presbyopia now or will develop it by 2014. Reading labels in the store, or menus in a romantically lit restaurant have become essentially impossible without my ‘readers’ . . . no matter how hard I squint. And knitting is now completely out of the question without them. Sound familiar?

When I first realized my eyes were getting weaker it didn’t matter too much how the ‘readers’ looked, as long as they did the job, because I wore them primarily at home to read the newspaper. But now that I need them more and more and wear them in public almost everywhere I go, they’ve become an important style accessory.  The good news is there are so many terrific options—at different price points—that you’ll never need to put on a pair of boring, dated ‘readers’ again.

I asked the Vision Council to give me the inside scoop on finding the perfect glasses. Their #1 tip was this: find the best frame to fit the shape of your face.  (This advice, they pointed out, can be applied to regular prescription glasses, as well.)

Here are a few of the more common “face shapes” and the best “reader shapes” for them:

  • Round:  full cheekbones with little or no angles. Best frame? Angular frames to make the face appear longer and thinner and a clear bridge to widen the eyes.
  • Oblong:  face is longer than it is wide with narrow chin and cheeks and a large forehead. Best frame? Those with decorative or contrasting temples that break the length of the face, making it appear shorter and wider.
  • Heart: wide forehead and high cheekbones with a narrow chin. Best frame? Butterfly or rimless styles that will broaden the appearance of the chin and make forehead more narrow.
  • Square: broad forehead and strong jawline. Best frame? Rounded or oval frames that will soften the face.
  • Oval: chin is slightly narrower than the forehead and is considered the ideal face shape because it’s so balanced. Best frame? Those that keep the natural balance of the oval.

Some of the more fun and stylish looks right  now are Geek Chic, Tortoise, Two-toned and Cat-Eye.

According to my ophthalmologist, reading glasses do not have to be prescription strength (or expensive) to be effective. Over-the-counter is just fine as long as you buy the correct magnification number. Direct from the eye doc, here are some tips for keeping your eyes feeling good and looking great:

  • When using the computer, give your eyes regular breaks. Just a few minutes of looking away will help. The best thing to do is to look out a window, or go outside, so your eyes can focus on far-away objects, countering the “up close” focus of computer work.
  • Wear reading glasses that are half the magnification strength of your normal reading glasses when using a computer.
  • Don’t smoke (for a lot of reasons that go way beyond your eyes).
  • Always wear sunglasses to protect against the rays. Added bonus: sunglasses protect the delicate skin around the eyes, too.
  • For dry eyes use over-the-counter moisturizing drops several times a day, but skip the ones that claim to “get the red out” as they can make the problem worse.

 Check out my new AARP YouTube series, The Best of Everything, by clicking here. And remember this: we can’t control getting older . . . but . . . we can control how we do it!







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