Visibly Aging…

Ike!
5 min readJan 17, 2024

I recently started wearing reading glasses. This came as a minor shock to me as I’d always prided myself on my excellent 20:20 vision. But hey, turning 40+ comes with consequences.

It all started with an intermittent twitch in my left eye that wouldn’t stop. On going to see the ophthalmologist and after some detailed eye tests, he declared that contrary to my expectations, the eyesight deterioration was actually in the right eye, and that the left eye was twitching because it had been doing most of the visual heavy lifting. For some reason I simply dismissed this diagnosis. Maybe it was because by my reckoning, he tended to dress less like a doctor but more like an undercover 80’s Deejay, complete with gaudy long collars and flared trousers. However, a 2nd opinion from another specialist (with a more conventional sartorial style) confirmed the first diagnosis and that finally set me straight.

Then my entry to the ecosystem of prescription glasses began. What type of lens do you want, bifocal, plain, tinted, wide, narrow, etc.? How about the frames — designer, no-name brands, or cheap plastic? And how about the cleaning cloths, lens cleaners, etc.? And lastly the case, do you want a hard or a soft one? How about spare glasses? And so on and so forth. A major pain point is the frequent need to either clean the glasses (I really dislike the stress of this), adjust their position on the nose/ears, get cleaning cloths/lens cleaners, ensure the glasses are safely stored, protect them from breaking and of course, clean them again and again and again!

The dreaded Eye Tests

For almost a year after getting the reading glasses, I wore them only as a last resort, i.e., on days when I had slept poorly or was stressed, and my internal systems were not at their best ‘woo-let’s-manage-our-eyes-joo’ state. This continued till about two months ago when my left eye (again) began to twitch intermittently. I initially cued this to stress but after a week of furious one-eyed blinking and lots of recovery sleep, I finally figured out that the eye was overloaded once more. To this end, I started wearing the reading glasses every day and the twitching have mostly subsided, though not completely stopped. Whenever I wear them, the twitches stop, but when I don’t e.g., when browsing my phone on the toilet, it starts again; almost like a ‘carrot and stick’ arrangement designed to goad me to proper compliance.

This brings me to my major grouse — which if you can’t figure out by now, is that I simply hate glasses. Even as a child, I never felt under any peer-pressure to wear glasses of any sort. Even when I started wearing fancy sunglasses as an adult, I had a habit of simply losing them because of my lack of any attachment to them. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy to be able to see with my prescription glasses, and I’m especially glad to be born in this era where aging related eyesight issues have working solutions. However, I can’t help but hate the necessity of this crutch. Maybe I simply despise what it clearly signifies — the beginning of the end of it all.

Alternatively, it’s quite possible I’m simply being dramatic. That said, it’s quite annoying how one day everything I read was crystal clear and by the next day, the written page is all a visual mush. Now each glasses-requiring action feels like a small reminder of ones fading vitality while highlighting the early dependencies on the ‘living aids’ that only multiply as one gets older.

On the flip side, it made me wonder how those who’ve worn prescription glasses since childhood have coped with all these inconveniences. Maybe they’ve just worn the glasses for so long that the coping mechanisms are simply part of them. Taking this a few steps further, I can imagine that most able-bodied people never really stop to think of how people with disabilities of one sort or another get to survive and thrive in a society not designed for them, especially in a place like Nigeria where at first glance, it would seem support systems for people living with disabilities are simply non-existent.

Speaking of support systems, I recall marveling at the intentional design of a train station platform in the Hague. A friend informed me that the reason why a section of the normally smooth tiles near the edge of the train platform had been designed with some special pattern for ‘additional roughness or friction.’ This was done to enable the blind or visually impaired people who used canes and needed to board a train to tell how close they were to the edge of the platform.

Disability Parking Signs

To confirm if anything similar obtained in Nigeria, I did a check on laws for the disabled and was surprised to find out that somewhat recently, Nigeria signed into law, the Discrimination against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act in 2019[1], after the bill had ruminated in the senate for ‘just’ 18years. The bill has fines and other charges for violations and established a National Commission for Persons with Disabilities. It also gave a 5-year transition period (expiring in January 2024) for the modification of public structures to enable accessibility for disabled people.

From experience, in Nigeria it’s one thing to have laws and another to have them followed, so for the most part the implementation is probably still a work in progress. This is because despite the expiration of this transition period, a good number of public buildings in Nigeria still take it for granted that visitors could need wheelchairs or other aids to allow the disabled to have access. This is mirrored across wider aspects of the society, from transportation, signages and more that ensure that disabled are required to be dependent on others for most of their needs.

This reflection on the inconveniences that define the daily existence of the disabled finally helped put things in context for me. Once again, I believe that I am highly privileged to live in a time when age-related vision loss is only a minor concern. I also realize that in the sliding scale of disabilities, being able self-correct by wearing glasses is a major blessing. Instead of railing against it, maybe it could be a means to realize that this seemingly new frailty comes with opportunities for inner resilience and outer empathy.

That said, I still strongly despise cleaning the lenses and just wish they would clean themselves!

[1] https://www.premiumtimesng.com/news/headlines/307494-ten-things-to-know-about-nigerias-new-disability-law.html?tztc=1

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Ike!

Curious Mind who writes to find some answers...