Content starts here

Fight the Frump! Finding Your Perfect Pair of "Readers"

Marilyn Monroe with glasses

Who said reading glasses had to be frumpy?

Since entering my 50's, I've had to keep a 6x magnifying mirror adhered to my bathroom mirror so I don't end up putting mascara on my lips. Presbyopia (an age-related condition whereby eyes have trouble focusing on objects that are close) is a natural byproduct of getting older, and I have it in spades. According to the Vision Council, the leading trade organization representing the optical industry, an estimated 90 million people in the U.S. either have presbyopia now or will develop it by 2014. Nice to know I'm not alone. Reading labels in the store, or menus in a romantically lit restaurant have become essentially impossible without my "readers" matter how hard I squint. And knitting is completely out of the question without them. Sound familiar?

When my eyes started getting weaker, it didn't matter too much how my "readers" looked, as long as they did the job because I wore them primarily at home to read the newspaper. But now that I need them more and more and wear them in public almost everywhere I go, they've become an important style accessory. The good news is there are so many terrific options, and at different price points, that you'll never need to put on a pair of boring, dated "readers" again.

I asked the Vision Council to provide me with advice on finding the perfect pair of glasses. Their #1 tip was this: find the best frame to fit the shape of your face. (This advice, they pointed out, can be applied to regular prescription glasses, as well.)

Here are a few of the more common "face shapes" and the best "reader shapes" for them:

Round: Round faces tend to have full cheekbones with little or no angles. Best frame? Angular frames to make the face appear longer and thinner and a clear bridge to widen eyes, like these from ICU Eyewear:

ICU Eyewear (7237 Zebra)_Round Shape Face-1

Oblong: An oblong face is typically longer than it is wide with a narrow chin and cheeks and a large forehead. Best frame? Those with decorative or contrasting temples that break the length of the face, making it appear shorter and wider. Check out The Professor by Cinzia Designs:

Cinzia Designs (The Professor)_Oblong Face Shape-3

Heart: Heart-shape faces have a wider forehead and high cheekbones with a narrow chin. Best frame? Butterfly or rimless styles that will broaden the appearance of the chin and make the forehead look more narrow. Take a look at these frame from Corinne McCormack:

Corinne McCormack (Roxy)_Heart Face Shape-1

Square: Square faces have broad foreheads and strong jawlines. Your best bet? Rounded or oval frames that will soften the face. A great example by Vera Wang Eyewear:

square glasses

Oval: On an oval face, the chin is slightly narrower than the forehead and it is considered the ideal face shape because it's so balanced. Best frame? Those that keep the natural balance of the oval. Below are very cool frames from Scojo New York:

Scojo New York (CARROLL)_Oval Shape Face

Once you've figured out the perfect shape frames for your face, keep an "eye" out for some of the more fun and stylish looks for fall and winter . . . like these:

Geek Chic Glass Frames

Tortoise Style Glasses Frames


Two-toned Style Frames for Glasses


Cat Eye Glasses Frames


Don't think this style advice is for women only! Men need reading glasses, too, and a recent post on the Eyecessorize Blog (all glasses, all the time) highlighted some of the latest trends in mens readers.

According to my ophthalmologist, reading glasses do not have to be prescription strength (or expensive) to be effective. Over-the-counter is just fine as long as you buy the correct magnification number. Directly from my eye doctor, here are some tips for keeping your eyes feeling good and looking great:

  • When using the computer, give your eyes regular breaks. Just a few minutes of looking away will help. The best thing to do is to look out a window or go outside so your eyes can focus on far-away objects, countering the "up close" focus of computer work.
  • Wear reading glasses that are half the magnification strength of your normal reading glasses when using a computer, or consider switching to special "computer glasses."
  • Don't smoke (for a lot of reasons that go way beyond your eyes).
  • Always wear sunglasses to protect against the rays. Added bonus: sunglasses protect the delicate skin around the eyes, too. (Click here for a fantastic look at some incredibly stylish seniors who know how to rock a pair of sunglasses).
  • For dry eyes use over-the-counter moisturizing drops several times a day, but skip the ones that claim to "get the red out" because they can often make the problem worse.

Whatever "readers" you choose, have fun! Make them part of your arsenal of stylish accessories, just like a great pair of shoes. Except, they're probably a lot cheaper!

Keep me posted on how you're doing by subscribing to me on Facebook and "tweeting" me on Twitter at @BGrufferman. Check back next week for more tips on living your best life after 50.

Photo credits: Eyecessorize, Vera Wang, Cinzia Designs, Corinne McCormack, ICU Eyewear, Scojo New York

Search AARP Blogs