“It’s a wonderful world out there, swimming back and forth in the calming waters. So when I turned 50, I started walking everywhere I needed to go instead of taking public transportation, and I joined a gym. At 55, I joined a different gym—one that had a pool. Would I swim half a lap and then feel like I was going to die and give up? It turns out, science is on my side. By taking a lot of rests, I swam an incredible 14 laps that day. In New York City, where I live, I’ve found swimming groups to join and activities to engage in, including an annual lap swim contest with a dinner and party hosted by NYC Parks & Recreation. A tip for women: If you’re worried about the effect of chlorine on your locks, wet your hair, lather in some conditioner and cover it with your bathing cap while you swim. It’s a wonderful world out there, swimming back and forth in the calming waters. Instead of running on a treadmill, I brace my feet against the side of a pool and glide off into the bright blue buoyant world, swimming back and forth at whatever relaxing or invigorating pace I feel like taking that day.
This post is sponsored by Alcon.
For most of my life, I took my body for granted. As a young woman, when I ate a piece of cheesecake, my metabolism devoured it with a fiery determination. When I exercised on January 1st, my overindulgence on New Year’s Eve was a distant memory. All of my senses were assumptions and my memories were set in stone.
Then, I reached my 50s and, slowly but surely, I became aware of just how disconnected from my body I had become. Every little ache and pain was a wake-up call. Every creak and crack told me that I needed to start treating my body with respect if I wanted it to be there for me in the future.
Of course, as we age, some changes are more obvious than others. We all know that our joints are getting a little creaky. Far fewer of us think about our senses – particularly our vision – until it is too late.
Part of the reason for this is that, unlike our muscles and bones, we don’t think of our eyes as being under our control. They are the stuff of poets, mysterious and magical. We also have a tendency to think that eye problems after 60 are “normal” and that there is nothing we can do about them.
In reality, we have more control over the health of our eyes than we believe. In honor of Cataract Awareness Month this June, I would like to encourage everyone to be proactive and get educated about eye health, break through the myths about eye health that prevent us from taking action, and learn more about the emotional impact cataracts can have on patients and their loved ones.
Myth 1: Women and Men Are Equally Impacted by Eye Diseases
By now, you have probably heard that women, on average, live longer than men. This might lead you to believe that we suffer from fewer medical problems as we age.
The reality is somewhat more complicated. After the age of 65, some conditions, such as heart disease, do tend to impact men more than women. However, when it comes to eye health, women can be at a disadvantage.
Specifically, according to Alcon, the global leader in eye care and a division of Novartis, 61% of cataract cases involve women (1). Likewise, women are at a higher risk than men of developing AMD (Age-Related Macular Degeneration (2)), refractive errors (which occur when the shape of the eye prevents light from focusing directly on the retina (3,4)) and even blindness (5).
Simply put, as we age, women can’t afford to be complacent when it comes to our eye health. Now is the time to take proactive steps to protect our vision so that it is there for us in the decades ahead.
Myth 2: Deteriorating Vision is an Inevitable Part of Aging, and Nothing can be Done About it
Our perceptions of “normal aging” are colored by what we see in the media. When we see older adults on TV and in the movies struggling with eye-related problems, we subconsciously accept this situation as being “just a part of life,” along with the restrictions and emotional implications that come with deteriorating eyesight. This can be stressful!
The truth is that stereotypes are self-reinforcing. The more we believe that eye problems are inevitable after 60, the less likely we will be to take the proactive steps necessary to protect our vision.
Then, when we encounter problems, it’s easy to justify our lack of attention by telling ourselves, “Oh well, I guess that’s just life. There’s nothing I could have done about it…