Eyes and ageing

Changes that occur in our eyes as we grow older can have a big effect on our vision.

From the age of about 45 years, you should have your eyes tested every few years to check how well you can see and to look for signs of common problems such as cataracts, glaucoma and macular degeneration. All of these problems can be managed better if picked up early. 

Keep your eyes healthy

Did you know? Your eyes need three times as much light when you’re 60 as they did when you were 20?

  • Use good lighting.
  • Eat well – especially fruit and vegetables.
  • Wear sunglasses –reduce your risk of cataracts.
  • Quit smoking – reduce your chances of developing cataracts and other eye conditions.
  • Stay a healthy weight – being overweight increases your risk of diabetes, which can lead to sight loss.
  • Exercise – this stimulates good circulation, increasing oxygen intake which is important for  eye health.
  • Sleep well – as you sleep, your eyes are continuously lubricated and irritants, such as dust or smoke, that have accumulated during the day are cleared out.

Presbyopia (age-related long-sightedness)

Get regular eye tests and wear the correct lenses

As we age, the ability of eye lenses to focus decreases gradually. This makes it hard to focus on things that are nearby (known as presbyopia) and is the reason many people over the age of 40 need reading glasses. 

Reading glasses:

  • help the eye to focus on things that are nearby
  • need to be gradually increased in power as the eye loses its focusing ability
  • do not speed up or slow down the changes happening in the eye.


Clouding of the lens within an eye is called a cataract. Your risk of getting cataracts increases with age and many people over the age of 60 years have cataracts. Some cataracts may require surgery. Surgery is usually only advised when the vision has become so blurred that it's difficult to carry out normal visual tasks. View more about cataracts.


Glaucoma is a condition in which the pressure inside the eye is too high and causes loss of vision. Glaucoma can run in families and is seen more commonly in the over-50 age group.

  • Most people are unaware they have the disease until it is in an advanced state.
  • It's important to have regular eye examinations and be screened for glaucoma, especially if there is a family history.
  • In most cases the condition can be successfully treated with eye pressure lowering drops.
  • View the glaucoma page.

Macular degeneration

In the over 60-year-old age group, gradual loss of central 'sharp' vision can occur. This is usually caused by changes in an area at the back of the eye called the macula. The macula helps with the sharp focusing needed for reading and other fine visual tasks.

If you experience a sudden change in your vision, eg, distortion, reduced near vision or blurred central vision, you should see your doctor or ophthalmologist without delay. View the macular degeneration page. 

Learn more

  • Optometrists are listed in the Yellow Pages of your telephone book. 
  • You can find an eye specialist via HealthPoint or look at the front of your telephone book.
  • Search online for local optometrists New Zealand Association of Optometrists (NZ), 2015 
Credits: Auckland Eye. Updated by Health Navigator. Last reviewed: 14 May 2015