What To Know About Senior Vision Care

Written by 
Molly Burford
Reviewed by 
Dr. Sahar Zuberi, MD
Article at a glance
  • Eye health and vision needs will change with age. This means that some seniors without vision insurance should consider coverage.

  • Original Medicare does not cover routine eye care. However, many Medicare Advantage plans do offer additional coverage, including vision benefits.

  • Stand-alone vision insurance plans through private insurance companies are always an option. Talk to a vision insurance provider to learn options.

Stylish medical glasses placed on optotype

Vision needs will change with age. For many older adults, this may include vision loss, vision disease, or other vision problems. That’s where vision insurance plans may come into play. 

This article will give a basic overview of senior vision care, including eye health tips, Medicare options, and other types of vision insurance for seniors.

How Does Vision Change With Age?

As people grow older, changes in vision are to be expected. These changes may include near-sightedness, trouble distinguishing colors, and additional time needed to adjust to light changes. Additionally, the chance of developing eye diseases and conditions increases with age as well.

Types Of Eye Diseases And Conditions 

In addition to routine vision changes that occur with aging, there are a number of eye diseases and conditions.

Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)

AMD is a type of eye disease. It can blur vision and is the leading cause of vision loss in older adults. There are two types of AMD: dry and wet. 

Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy is an eye condition that causes blindness as well as vision loss in those with diabetes. Diabetic retinopathy affects the blood vessels in the retina. If you have diabetes, it’s incredibly important to get an annual eye exam (dilation of the eyes should be performed).

Cataracts

Cataracts occur when the natural lens of the eye becomes cloudy. Other symptoms include seeing double, being sensitive to light, night vision problems, etc. 

Glaucoma

Glaucoma consists of a group of eye disorders that involve damage to the optic nerve. This damage to the optic nerve can then lead to vision loss. 

Dry Eyes

Dry eyes are a common condition marked by redness, scratchiness, burning, and blurriness of the eyes. People ages 50 and older are at a higher risk for developing dry eyes. Eye drops and other medications can help alleviate this condition. 

Low Vision

Low vision is an eye condition that cannot be corrected by eyeglasses, contact lenses, surgeries, or medications. Low vision means that activities such as reading, driving, recognizing face, etc. become difficult.


Note: Learn more about eye diseases and conditions at this resource.

Anonymous oculist examining vision of patient on eye screener

How To Cope With Eye Disease And Vision Loss

Maintaining good eye health is important for overall health. This is why it is important to set up annual eye exams, speaking with an eye doctor about health issues and concerns. In addition, there are a number of ways seniors can keep their eyes and vision healthy:

  • Eat a healthy diet

  • Protect eyes from the sun 

  • Wear prescription glasses 

  • Exercise regularly

  • Rest eyes while watching TV or using the computer 

  • Quit smoking if necessary

What Does Vision Insurance Typically Include?

Vision benefits will vary based on the type of vision insurance plan chosen. However, vision plans often cover vision services and supplies such as: 

  • Routine eye exams 

  • Corrective lenses such as contact lenses and/​or eyeglass frames

  • Eye-related treatments (i.e. corrective surgeries, medications, etc.) 

Photo of an Elderly Woman with Gray Hair Reading a Book

Understanding Medicare And Vision Insurance Coverage

Medicare is federal health insurance for Americans age 65 and older, as well as some people with certain disabilities and end-stage renal disease (ESRD).

There are two main ways for eligible Americans to receive Medicare coverage: Original Medicare plans and Medicare Advantage plans. Original Medicare consists of Part A (hospital insurance) and Part B (medical insurance). Meanwhile, Medicare Advantage plans bundle Part A, B, and often Part D (prescription drug insurance) with additional benefits like dental, hearing, and vision care.

Does Original Medicare Include Vision Coverage?

Original Medicare does not include vision coverage within its policies, meaning healthcare services such as routine vision exams would need to be covered out of pocket by the beneficiary. However, Original Medicare beneficiaries can still find coverage by purchasing a stand-alone vision plan. 

Medicare Advantage And Vision Insurance Coverage

Older adults eligible for Medicare also have the option to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan, as many of these plans do include extra benefits such as dental and vision insurance. However, not every single MA plan will include vision benefits, so it’s important to contact the insurance company to confirm additional coverage for extra health care benefits such as vision.

Do Medicare Supplement Insurance Plans Help With Vision Coverage?

Medigap plans are supplemental Medicare plans that intend to fill in the gaps” of Original Medicare. Medigap plans often help with deductible, copayment, and coinsurance payments. 

Medigap plans will not help Original Medicare beneficiaries with payments for eye care. As well, Medicare Advantage enrollees cannot be enrolled in both a Medicare Advantage plan and have a Medigap policy.

Note: Learn more about Medicare at this resource.

Crop faceless ophthalmologist with measuring eye test glasses

How To Find Low-Cost Vision Care

There are a number of ways to find low-cost vision care including nonprofits and public service programs.

EyeCare America

EyeCare America is a public service program that offers no-cost eye exams as well as free or discounted medication. EyeCare America has various programs to help members save money including its Seniors Program and Glaucoma Program. Learn more about EyeCare America here.

New Eyes

New Eyes provides new eyeglasses to people experiencing financial difficulties and unable to purchase a pair otherwise. Learn more about New Eyes here.

Lion’s Club

Lion’s Club is a non-profit organization that provides eyeglasses to those in need. Learn more about Lion’s Club here.

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