Article Date: 6/1/2012

Welcome to Middle Age
Patient's Perspective

Welcome to Middle Age

An aging GenXer needs bifocals — is this the beginning of the end?

By Dawn Kairys, as told to Erin Murphy, Contributing Editor

I'M HAPPY BEING 44, so why is it that every time I mention some minor ache or pain, there's another “middleaged” person waiting to turn it into my fist step down the slippery slope of geriatric decrepitude?

“Welcome to middle age! Better get used to it — there's more where that came from!”

Those words make me grit my teeth. I'm just not the kind of person who wants to share a sense of doomed camaraderie over my age. I still think I'm young! And I'm a fit person who believes that my sore back is just the temporary result of 4 hours of weeding over the weekend, not evidence that my body is falling apart with every tick of the clock.

So, when I started having trouble reading in my contact lenses, I didn't mention it to anyone. I figured that was between me and my optometrist. I'd just get a new prescription, so I wouldn't have to endure ribbing about vision being “the first thing to go.” If only it were that simple.

Blunt Force News

“You need bifocals,” my 50-something optometrist told me.

“Bifocals?” I said, picturing the pair my grandfather wore perched on the end of his nose.

The doctor chuckled at my shocked expression. “This is life after 40. This is when we all end up in reading glasses or bifocals. Our faces get a little more wrinkled, our knees are sore and we can't remember where we put anything. But first we get bifocals!”

Great. I wanted a new prescription, but now I'm feeling wrinkled, achy and demented at 44! After the exam, I was in no mood to shop. I used my prescription, to buy glasses a week later at Lenscrafters, and ordered contacts online.

Subtle Approach

A few months later, a 40ish coworker said to me, “I picked up the order for my new contact lenses, and they said multifocal on the box. I asked the girl at the desk, and she checked and saw that my prescription was for bifocals. I didn't even know that!”

She was pretty amused. Apparently, her doctor told her she was getting new lenses to help her read better and see at different distances, and they might take some getting used to. He showed her a diagram of the lenses and how they worked. He didn't call them “bifocals” or make remarks about her age. How nice! He treated it like an ordinary change in prescription — not a chance to chuckle about wrinkles and approaching senility.

Advice for the Doctor

When I took my daughter for her eye exam, I completed a comment card at the desk. I like my eye doctor, so I want him to do well.

Surely I can't be the only patient who doesn't want to be laughingly told that she's old. I suggested that even if bifocals are needed when a person hits “a certain age,” he might try to be more matter-of-fact about it. Maybe I'm a little sensitive, but old jokes…well, they get old. And they certainly don't put me in the mood to let the sunny receptionist steer me toward a bank of frames and mirrors. Let me feel, like my coworker did, that bifocals are no big deal. Let “middle age” keep feeling young. I hope he takes my advice! nOD

Editor's note: Periodically, new OD will explore eye care from the patient's perspective.
Whether you have a special interest in contact lenses, low vision or pediatric care, you'll find out from real patients what attracts them to a practice and keeps them coming back.

Optometric Management, Volume: , Issue: June 2012, page(s): 70