rom instant messaging to fitness apps, GPS, social media and newsfeeds, Canadians are embracing technology as part of their active lifestyles. But being tech savvy can have its drawbacks as you age. Around the age of 40, many begin to lose their reading vision, or their ability to focus on phones, tablets, and computer screens. Suddenly, you’re wearing over-the-counter reading glasses, bifocal or progressive lenses just to answer a text message.

The crippling sign of aging known as presbyopia affects more than 1.7 billion people worldwide, a number expected to increase to 2.1 billion in the next five years, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Fortunately, there are alternatives to wearing annoying reading glasses or multifocals.

Loss of reading vision

“Most people notice this problem when looking at a menu in a restaurant, or when they start having difficulty seeing their watch or phone. Reading certainly becomes more difficult,” says Dr. Michael Kaplan, a Toronto-based optometrist.

The gradual loss of vision can take a toll on both a person’s daily routine and self-image, as recent surveys show that almost half of adults say reading glasses can make someone look and feel older.

Brian Ludmer has been doing regular check-ups with his eye doctor for the past few years. Recently, it became abundantly clear the 56-year-old lawyer required reading vision correction.

“In one instance, I was trying to catch up on some emails while waiting in line at a grocery store. I was holding my phone so far away that someone thought I was taking a picture of them,” he recalls.

“Multifocal contact lenses can be liberating, as there is no more need to be searching for readers.”

Canadian technology guru and columnist Marc Saltzman has noticed how presbyopia can complicate people’s use of handheld devices. “Even after getting a larger phone and enlarging the font to a point where there is only one or two words per line, they still end up stretching their arms out to read their texts. It’s either that or pulling out their readers,” he says.

“Naturally there’s a stigma associated with that. People don’t want to become the cliché of their grandfather with his readers at the tip of his nose ruffling through a newspaper,” he adds.

A new contact lens

In the past few weeks, Brian got the opportunity to try a new line of water gradient multifocal contact lenses. These daily lenses allow him to easily focus at close, intermediate, and far distances without having to wear progressive lens glasses or a pair of readers on top of his contact lenses.

“If I’m driving, I need my distance correction. Then, when I approach a red light, I need my close up correction to look at the dashboard. With these contacts, I can just cycle through my full daily schedule. No matter what I do, I’ve got the right correction built in,” Brian says.

When outside, he can now wear over-the-counter sunglasses instead of clip-ons or prescription sunglasses. He no longer needs to worry about having to carry around multiple pairs of glasses.

Opening a world of possibilities

The new generation of contact lenses uses center-near design, with the near power in the center and gradual power change from near to intermediate to distance, so that you can see clearly wherever you choose to focus.

"My eyes feel so much better at the end of the day now."

Dr. Kaplan remarks that, “Contrary to multifocal glasses, there is no up or down section. You can see clearly wherever you are looking. This happens seamlessly — your brain does it all for you.”

People in their 40s and up are now more active than ever, juggling with work, social activities, leisure, and fitness. With the advent of smart watches and fitness apps, people want to be able to look at their devices during their routine. Multifocal contact lenses can allow them to keep their eyes on the prize while periodically checking their heartbeat monitor or fitness app on their phones.

“If you’re out for a jog and don’t have readers on you, it can be difficult to look at your Fitbit or heartbeat monitor. I can see how multifocal contact lenses can be liberating, as there is no more need to be searching for readers,” explains Mr. Saltzman.

Increased comfort and functionality

Now Brian can start his morning routine, go to work, answer emails on his phone, head to the gym, and cool off over a few drinks with friends without having to worry about changing his lenses or forgetting his reading glasses.

He adds, “My lenses have the best breathability possible, so I can really feel it.  My eyes feel so much better at the end of the day now.”

Whether it is for presbyopia only or for a combination of other refractive errors, eye doctors are increasingly recommending daily water gradient multifocal contacts as the best solution to improve their patients’ lifestyles and self-confidence. Dr. Kaplan recommends having a full examination with an optometrist to see how they can help you get rid of your readers.