Study Links Reading Glasses to Cognition in Elderly


Reading glasses can improve mental acuity in the elderly, according to a study carried out by an Israeli researcher, Haaretz reports.

Tests done at the Sourasky Medical Center (better known as Ichilov) showed that that elderly people who need reading glasses and actually use them consistently performed better than their peers who did not resort to visual aid, says ophthalmologist Dr. Oriel Spierer.

The results could have a far-reaching impact on the quality of life for the elderly without having to resort to surgery and expense: “How much do reading glasses cost? They’re dirt-cheap,” Spierer said.

The tests were carried out on 190 elderly people aged 75 and over (the oldest was 91) who had tested negative for dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease, which would have also impaired their cognition, irrespective of how well they could see.

It was the first study of its kind done in Israel.

“We knew that people with better visual acuity would have better cognition, in far vision. Now we have demonstrated this with close-up vision,” Spierer said.

The connection between vision and cognition remains to be explained.

“One possible explanation of the findings is that an elderly person who doesn’t see well, engages less in physical and mental activity. He utilizes his brain less in activities like reading, walking around and so on, because he simply can’t see well, which in and of itself can lead to deterioration of mental functioning,” Spierer suggested.

The study adds to others done elsewhere in the world, which showed that surgical correction of cataracts can improve cognitive functioning in the elderly too, Spierer noted.

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