Purpose. To evaluate refractive errors in older adults.
Methods. The distribution of refractive error components was evaluated in a sample of 569 older adults including 171 participants over the age of 80 years. The mean age was 75.2 years with a range from 59 to 106 years. Emphasis was placed on modern methods of analyzing astigmatic refractive errors, which convert cylindrical refractive errors into primary and oblique components.
Results. The known increase in hyperopia after maturity continues into old age. The primary negative astigmatic component increases dramatically in prevalence and amount after age 70 years, whereas the oblique component remains unchanged. Significant anisometropia is common in the oldest old, suggesting failure of emmetropization mechanisms with age. Substantial gender differences exist in refractive changes with age.
Conclusions. The continuing changes in all components of refractive error into old age and the surprisingly high prevalence of large amounts of astigmatism and anisometropia emphasize the importance of regular refractive evaluations among the oldest old.