Elderly individuals are no strangers to eye doctors, and many find that as they grow older their eyesight worsens. That is why nearly 8 out of 10 Americans over the age of 55 require the use of prescription eyeglasses to maintain clear vision. Unfortunately, there is a hefty price associated with that clarity of sight, with prescription eyeglasses costing around $200 or more depending on a patient's specific needs. With a wide selection of options in lenses, coatings and frames, the bill for a new pair of glasses can add up to be significantly more than many elderly individuals may initially expect. Fortunately, there are a few tips seniors should consider to ensure they get the best options for eyeglasses without paying an exorbitant amount at spectacle retailers. 

Consider the appropriate size
While it may be tempting to buy a slender and fashionable frame, seniors should keep in mind that function should always trump fashion. Many elderly Americans suffer from presbyopia, a condition that results in the stiffening of the lenses in the eyes, which prevents many patients from focusing on close-vision subjects. Reading at arm's length is a good example of this issue. Those who suffer from this condition might opt for multifocal lenses that offer a few different "strengths," and allow individuals to see objects or print both near and far.

Unfortunately, smaller and more fashionable frames don't always allow enough space for these types of lenses to be effective. That is why doctors recommend a frame that has a vertical height of at least 1.25 inches, to better accommodate bifocal, trifocal or progressive lenses. 

Choosing lens materials
While we may still refer to them as glasses, most lenses are no longer made from glass. Instead, most manufacturers use more modern plastic lenses that are lighter, thinner and less likely to break if dropped. Some of those plastic options are listed below:

  • Basic lenses, also known as CR-39, are the most common option for everyday eyeglasses. They are the least expensive option in most cases, and are usually used for "buy-one-get-one" and "complete pair for under $100" sales gimmicks. If you're trying to keep the price down on a new pair of glasses, basic lenses are the way to go. Just be sure to avoid additional costs for UV treatments, because most plastics don't require them. 
  • Mid-index options are thinner and lighter than basic lenses. They are also more compatible with anti-reflective and photochromic treatments. However, stronger prescription using mid-index lenses usually are significantly thicker, which may limit your choice of frames. 
  • High-index lenses are even thinner and lighter than the both basic and mid-index options, and don't get that "coke bottle" effect when used for stronger prescriptions. These are one of the more expensive options, and often times insurance will only cover a portion of the added cost. In addition, these lenses are more prone to reflecting light, so anti-reflective coatings are advised. 
  • Polycarbonate lenses are one of the most durable options because the material was originally designed to be used for fighter jet canopies. This option is ideal for more active or accident prone seniors due to the fact that they are virtually unbreakable. They offer similar benefits as high-index lenses, but are also equally costly. 
  • High-definition lenses are the most recent addition to the bunch, and are usually significantly more expensive than all the other options. While these lenses offer a superior crispness and clarity, they can often run more than $150 more than other options. 

Lens treatment options
Certain lens treatments can be quite beneficial, and are highly effective in reducing glare or preventing scratches. Others, such as UV treatments, provide little benefit and are mostly used as a gimmick by vendors to tack on additional charges to your bill. If you're considering lens treatments for a new pair of eyeglasses, the following are the best and most common options:

  • Scratch resistant treatments provide added protection to your eyeglasses and are a good investment if you may be a little clumsy. 
  • Anti-reflective treatments help you avoid glare. This treatment is best for individuals who are frequent computer users, nighttime drivers bothered by glare, public speakers under bright lights or those who've recently undergone LASIK surgery. 
  • Photochromic treatments allow the lens to darken in bright conditions, eliminating the need for prescription sunglasses. 
  • Polarized treatments for sunglasses are used to improve contrast and glare. They are especially useful for individuals who do a lot of fishing or driving. These lens treatments often cost significantly more, and most doctors claim that regular prescription sunglasses would work just as well. 

Where to buy eyeglasses
Costco is one of the best retail store to grab a new pair of glasses, according to Consumer Reports, and they often offer savings of up to 40 percent compared to typical optical chains. Sam's Club and Walmart are also good low-cost options. It is important to note that nearly all franchise optical retailers, including LensCrafters, Pearle Vision, Sunglass Hut and optical branches of Target and Sears, are all owned by the Italian-based company Luxottica who also have a strong stake in about 80 percent of major frame brands. If you're trying to keep the cost down, these chains should be avoided.