Vision Myth #2:  Everyone begins to lose near vision at the age of 40.


Near vision can be maintained for life by actively using the eyes properly.

It has become a widely accepted idea that once you hit the age of 40 you can say goodbye to your near vision. It’s just a natural byproduct of aging and it happens to everyone, right? Something about the lens hardening and turning yellow? Seemingly all of a sudden your arms aren’t long enough to read what is in your hand. Did someone make the font size smaller on labels without me noticing? Time to either go buy a pair of plus-lens readers from the drug store or find a magnifying glass somewhere. You’ve heard this myth many times before, but have you ever questioned its validity?

If this myth were true how could you explain the elders of indigenous people maintaining crystal clear eyesight until the day they died? Before modern civilization groups of people around the world created gorgeous handcrafted artwork, ceramics and clothing and simultaneously hunted game for food, activities requiring perfect vision at the near point and the distance. What about people of modern times who never lose their near vision? What about children who lose near vision before they are teenagers? Optometry textbooks label this type of “inevitable” vision loss Presbyopia, or “old-age sight”. Since young people cannot fall into the category of “old-age sight”, Hyperopia, or “far-sightedness” was coined. The conditions are fairly identical, but the medical field created the two different names in order to get around the conundrum of young people experiencing “old-age sight”.

The only person wearing glasses is the white settler in the black hat.

The only person wearing glasses in this photograph is the white settler in the black hat.

The fact is that vision loss is not a natural byproduct of aging. Age is not the predominant factor in vision loss, but rather how you use your eyes. In Presbyopia and Hyperopia, tension held in the four Recti muscles prevents the two Oblique muscles from being able to lengthen the eyes to adjust their focal length and focus light on the retina. The medial recti muscles that pull the eyes inward toward the nose weaken and the eyes are less able to converge, or cross, to properly gaze at objects close to the face. In order to focus on near objects, the lens must thicken, like a magnifying glass, by action of the ciliary muscles. Using reading glasses takes the job away from the lens so the ciliary muscles weaken. As the body ages the lens does indeed change in density and opacity, but we can influence to what extent these processes occur. If you wear glasses and continue improper vision habits, the lens will harden and change color more. However, if we learn proper vision habits, use the eyes correctly and practice the Bates Method then the lens will remain young, flexible and more transparent throughout life. You can maintain clear vision at the near point and read fine print six inches from your nose well beyond the age of 40. Don’t give up on your eyes so early in life!

One way to strengthen near vision is by using this Pencil Convergence Drill:

  1. Hold 2 identical pencils parallel to each other with the erasers facing up about an inch apart at a comfortable distance from your nose.
  2. Gently cross your eyes until the two pencils overlap with each other and fuse together, forming a third pencil in the middle.
  3. If this is not possible, flip one pencil over and slowly bring it closer to the nose while focusing on its tip. Try to notice in the background that the other pencil has split into two. Lower the tip-up pencil and try to split the eraser-up pencil into two on your own.
  4. Once fusion is possible and you are able to relax and gaze at the third pencil in the middle, pull the pencils apart 1 centimeter. This will create 4 pencils and you will need to converge, or cross, the eyes a tiny bit more to make them fuse back onto the third pencil in the middle.
  5. Continue slowly pulling the pencils apart 1 centimeter at a time, pausing for a moment in between allowing your eyes to refocus and fuse together.
  6. Eventually you will find your individual edge where you cannot pull the pencils any further apart while seeing the third pencil. This is your limit, but with daily practice you will be able to go further.