GEORGE TOWN: One of the earliest signs of ageing will be failing eyesight.
Be it for myopia (near-sightedness), astigmatism (blur vision) or presbyopia (far-sightedness), prescription lenses can cost a bomb to the B40 community.
Unable to afford the expensive lenses that range from RM500 to RM4,000 each, these less fortunate people have a tendency to neglect their vision problems.
Various social organisations have stepped in to help them.
Peace and Harmony Home founder Tan Swee Ban said elderly people in need of aid seldom admit that they have vision issues.
“It takes a lot of coaxing to get them to go for eye checks,” he said.Penang Community Care (PCC) founding president Wendy Ang said the poor needed to save to get a pair of spectacles with multi-focal lenses.
“Several single mothers have approached us for help to get them the corrective spectacles,” she said, added that the organisation also arranged for senior citizens to go for eye check-up or undergo treatments at government health institutions.
“We know many who have undergone cataract surgery. For those who only encounter a reading problem, the solution is easy – they just need a pair of reading glasses that costs as low as RM5 each,” she added.
A volunteer who only wished to be known as Tan said that he paid special attention to those from underprivileged backgrounds who are suffering from vision problems. The 63-year-old encountered near- and far-sighted vision issues a few years ago.
“I picked up a pair of ready-made multi-focal glasses for RM1,300 but regretted it soon after. It gave me severe headache.
“Then, an optometrist recommended for me to get prescription lenses that cost RM2,500. It took me some time to save up enough money for it, but I can see clearly now,” he smiled.
With his experience, Tan has been actively helping the less fortunate community with vision problems by engaging charitable groups and philanthropists to help them.
Optometrist Edric Tan, 35, said those aged between 40 and 55 formed the largest consumer group for multi-focal lenses.
“Custom-made multi-focal lenses can cost as much as RM4,000, but ordinary sets of between RM500 to RM900 are most popular among the people,” he said.
Another optometrist, Thok Chuan Tan, 54, said the pricier lenses are worth it as they offer better optics with less distortion to reduce dizziness and allow a wider field of view.
Lions Clubs International governor for district 308B2 Dr Alan Thoo said almost 1,000 pairs of spectacles have been given out to underprivileged people this year.
About 90% of the recipients were students, he said.
He added that fellow Lions in Selangor also helped the needy to undergo cataract surgery for free since more than 15 years ago.
This year, about 100 people had the surgery.