Low vision affects many people as they get older. However, a person can take steps to reduce the lifestyle effects of low vision. They can even make small changes to live independently.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 12 million people ages 40 and above have vision impairment.

While living with low vision can be challenging, individuals can make adjustments to do so safely and independently.

Read on to learn more about independent living with low vision.

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According to the National Eye Institute, the type of low vision someone has depends on the disease or condition that causes it. The most common types of low vision are:

  • Central vision loss: This involves being unable to see things in the center of a person’s vision.
  • Peripheral vision loss: This involves being unable to see things out of the corners of the eyes.
  • Night blindness: This means being unable to see in low light.
  • Blurry vision: A person may see things as blurry or hazy.

No matter what type of vision loss, a person can take steps to reduce its effects on their life and live independently.

Buy larger items

Small objects or objects with small text can be difficult to see. However, many tools are available to help magnify and brighten everyday objects.

Some tips to help make the visibility of common, everyday items in the household easier include:

  • labeling frequently used appliances and devices, such as stoves, utensils, and common food items, with larger fonts and brightly colored labels
  • using braille, bump dots, and tactile markers on common buttons on the microwave, dishwasher, and laundry machine
  • using remote controls, smartphones, and other small electronic devices with large displays and large text options
  • placing magnifying glasses around the home for easy access
  • requesting that prescription bottles feature large print

Increase lighting

The simple addition of extra lighting can improve visibility in many spaces. People can try:

  • installing additional lighting in low-lit areas such as closets, under cabinets, and other storage spaces
  • using the highest-wattage light bulb possible to increase light output
  • finding the optimal brand and type of lighting for the space
  • keeping the lights on during the day to minimize glare

Remove obstacles

Eliminating clutter and strategically placing items can make them easier to visualize and less likely to trip on. Some tips on removing obstacles in a living space include:

  • avoiding the use of area rugs and throw rugs
  • repairing loose carpet and flooring
  • using cord organizers or zip ties to keep cords contained and out of the way
  • cleaning up spills immediately and making efforts to avoid spills
  • moving smaller furniture out of high-traffic areas
  • placing large pieces of furniture with extra space to walk around the item

Increase contrast

Contrasting colors can help people visualize objects more easily. Some tips to incorporate this in the home include:

  • replacing doorknobs and handles with contrasting colored hardware, so use light knobs on dark doors and vice versa
  • replacing outlet and switch covers with a color that contrasts with the color of the wall, so place dark plates on light walls and vice versa
  • painting bright colors on steps and stairs — a person can also do this with tape specific for this purpose.
  • using cutting boards with contrasting colors from the food a person prepares and the countertop when possible
  • using a large HD television that offers suitable contrast with adjustable options to adapt to programming
  • using plates, utensils, cups, and other tableware that contrast with the tabletop as well as the served food

Organize spaces

The best way for someone with low vision who lives alone to locate items in the home is to know exactly where they are. Taking the time to create a place dedicated to each item is highly recommended for people with low vision who are living independently.

This also helps avoid tripping or running into unexpected items that are not in their proper storage.

Friends and family who visit also need to be aware of this organizational system and put things back in the same place where they found them. Labels, contrasting colors, tactile dots, and braille can help all people involved find things and put them back where they belong.

Use smart devices and apps

Many people with low vision who live alone can use various smart home devices, apps, and tools available to them. Some of these resources can offer the following for those with low vision:

  • weighing and counting items and speaking the amounts aloud
  • reading text aloud
  • scanning rooms to search for items
  • turning lights on and off
  • locking and unlocking doors
  • making lists
  • creating reminders or to-do lists
  • contacting family members, friends, and emergency services

People with vision loss who live alone can optimize safety by keeping walking pathways clear and wide. They can also make a few other small changes to the environment.

These small changes include:

  • changing smoke detector batteries twice a year
  • adding safety bumpers on oven racks to avoid burns
  • installing safety bars in the bathtub and shower
  • installing secure handrails on stairs

People living with low vision may feel isolated.

Loneliness and social support differ across those with visual impairment. Different sociodemographic characteristics, such as unemployment, a lack of stable economic resources, living alone, or having difficulty acting independently, make this group more prone to loneliness and low social support.

People can help improve their loneliness and social isolation with the following lifestyle choices and interventions:

  • seeking counseling services
  • maintaining the ability to move independently
  • engaging in more leisure or social activities
  • building as much financial stability as possible

Living independently with low vision can be challenging at any age. However, simple changes in the home can improve quality of life and increase safety.

For example, people can utilize larger items, color contrasting, increased lighting, and smart devices and apps.