April 16th, 2004

Aging Eyes Can Benefit from Ergonomics

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With age comes wisdom . . . and a whole host of other problems including an inability to see everything quite so clearly.

The subject of a recent report in USA Today as well as a special issue of the Archives of Ophthalmology, age-related vision problems are expected to continue becoming more common as the U.S.’s 77 million baby boomers reach retirement age and beyond.

“If we live long enough, we’re going to get cataracts,” Frederick Ferris, clinical director of the National Eye Institute told USA Today. The incident rate for cataracts alone is expected to increase from 20.5 million to 30.1 million for Americans by the year 2020.

While some vision-related conditions may require specific medical treatment, ergonomics can also help ease the vision-related difficulties of aging. For computer users, regardless of age, simple fixes like reducing glare on a computer screen by closing blinds or changing a monitor’s location, or increasing the screen’s font-size, something that can be accomplished readily through most internet browsers’ “view” menu option, can make a large impact on eye strain and vision difficulties.

Additionally, in a 2003 report on ergonomics and the aging worker in The Ergonomics Report, Dr. Jeffrey Anshel, a California-based doctor of optometry, offered the following advice for an aging computer-savvy population:

1. Lower the monitor. According to Anshel, whether looking at a computer screen or a newspaper, when people read, our eyes naturally turn in and turn down.

2. Watch out for glare. Anshel recommends angling the monitor back somewhat to try to make the face of the monitor perpendicular to glare.

3. Address the lighting. Most offices are designed for paper, says Anshel, indicating that paper, unlike computer monitors, isn’t back-lit and needs illumination. But when computers and paper share the same space, consideration needs to be made for the fact that monitors are also a light source.

4. Tool with the brightness. Anshel indicates that, while monitors might look snazzier in the showroom with their brightness controls set all the way to high, lighting in the workplace is different. Plus if natural light is a factor, a comfortable brightness setting might change for a worker throughout the day.

5. Older workers normally need more light. Anshel also notes that workers with cataracts tend to work most effectively with white letters on a black background.

Sources: USA Today; The Ergonomics Report



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