There has been a reduction in the number of older people reporting eye problems, according to a new study, which points to both improved genetic resistance to sight-damaging conditions and greater eyecare.
The study, carried out by experts at Northwestern University in the US and published in the journal Ophthalmology, shows that visual decline has reduced markedly over the past 25 years.
In 1984, 23 per cent of elderly adults had difficulty reading or seeing newspaper print because of poor eyesight, while in 2010, there was an age-adjusted 58 per cent decrease in this form of visual impairment, with only seven per cent of older people reporting the problem.
The study also highlighted that there has been a substantial decline in eyesight problems that limit elderly people from taking part in daily activities, such as bathing, dressing or getting around the house.
Dr Angelo Tanna, vice chairman of ophthalmology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and first author of the study, said the decrease in visual impairment in those 65 and older has been "highly statistically significant" in the past 25 years, even though there has been little change in visual impairments in adults under the age of 65.
"The findings are exciting, because they suggest that currently used diagnostic and screening tools and therapeutic interventions for various ophthalmic diseases are helping to prolong the vision of the elderly," he added.
According to the expert, there are three likely reasons for the decline, including improved techniques and outcomes for cataract surgery and less smoking, resulting in a drop in the prevalence of macular degeneration.
Treatments for diabetic eye diseases are more readily available and improved, in spite of the fact that the prevalence of diabetes has increased, he also noted.
Though the study was based on analysis in the US, it is estimated that the results reflect wider trends across the western world.