You can call them Latchkey Kids, Slackers, or Post-Boomers. Just don’t call them “old.”
They’re known as Generation X, and they make up about a quarter of your business, according to a 2014 AOA survey. Although inconsistently defined, they were generally born between 1965 and 1982. With childhoods shaped by Watergate, MTV, the end of the Cold War, and a rising divorce rate, Gen Xers are marked by self-reliance, a “work-to-live” mentality, and a sense of entrepreneurialism.
Gen Xers don’t see themselves as old, but visual changes are making them feel old for the first time
Oh, and their vision is declining. They’re avoiding small print, using brighter lights, and “tromboning” their arms (moving their reading material closer or further away in order to focus). This means that these 35-50 year olds are an outstanding growth opportunity for eye care practices, says Kris Kerestan Garbig, OD, a contact lens specialist and presenter at SECO2016.
CL Use Drops Off After Age 40. Why?
Half of contact lens wearers are between the ages of 18 and 44, according to CDC data. But as presbyopia inevitably emerges, they experience a growing discontentment with their lenses.
Many Gen X patients are longtime CL wearers—loyal to the same product line. They’re used to having their own way, and become frustrated when their visual aids that used to work no longer do. Eventually (and often reluctantly) they drop out of CL wear altogether. Yet 92 percent of emerging presbyopes say they are interested in staying in CLs, according to Kerestan Garbig. As an ECP, your ability to transition Gen X patients to multifocal lenses offers a unique opportunity to address their concerns and boost practice profits at the same time.
So where’s the disconnect?
Expert consensus is that ECPs just aren’t giving patients the multifocal option as often as they should be, says Kading. Many may still be hesitant about fitting multifocal CLs, based on previous experiences when the technology just wasn’t as good as it is today. As a result patients simply aren’t aware of multifocal CL technology. But the availability of daily disposables, along with new lens materials, optics, and designs, means that now is the best time to start fitting presbyopes with multifocal CLs, and to introduce the modality to emerging presbyopes.
Industry projections identify presbyopes as becoming the single largest group of potential contact lens wearers by 2018. Gen Xers are motivated to purchase innovative modalities that address vision problems while enhancing their lifestyle and appearance. But surprisingly, Gen Xers have been overlooked as a growth opportunity Don’t let it pass you buy!
“My vision isn’t blurry. It’s just out of focus.”
Gen Xers don’t see themselves as old, but visual changes are making them feel old for the first time, notes Kerestan Garbig. Symptoms like eye strain, tired eyes, difficulty focusing, headache, burning, watering, and dry eye are getting them down. And they just can’t deal! Emotions including denial, disbelief, even anger and sadness are common, she notes.
The Gen X presbyope has different contact lens needs than other generations, points out optical consultant Diane Drake. First of all, this generation is “accustomed” to wearing contact lenses. They are very mobile, have active lifestyles, and are visually demanding. They are also tech savvy and highly connected online. Finally, they want to maintain their activities, maintain their freedom and flexibility, as well as their confidence.
Appearance matters—a lot.
Gen Xers don’t want to look “old” and to them, bifocal glasses (progressive or not) are the epitome of “old,” according to Drake.They have a strong desire to maintain an appearance of youthfulness, health, and fitness. And after a lifetime of CL wear, they have difficulty adjusting to spectacle correction. The thought of wearing reading glasses or bifocals disturbs them. “If you can keep them in contact lenses, they are very loyal,” Drake says.
Next up: Daily disposables—tips on presenting the healthiest CL option for your presbyope patients.