It’s only natural for somebody who suddenly loses vision to become depressed, right? I mean, wouldn’t you?
Not if Barry Rovner, a geriatric psychiatrist at Wills Eye Hospital, has his way. “As you get older, you lose function of all sorts—your hearing, your sight, how fast you run, how strong you are,” he says. “These are natural changes, and they’re tolerated pretty well.” But with macular degeneration, a major cause of vision loss in older adults—it affects 10 percent of all those ages 66 to 74 and 30 percent of those 75 to 85—disability doesn’t come on gradually: “Suddenly—bam! You’re substantially visually impaired,” says Rovner. “You can’t read, you can’t drive, you can’t put on makeup, you can’t take care of your grandkids.” Your thinking becomes catastrophic; you’re convinced your life is over. And that sort of thinking, says Rovner, leads to depression.