Lenses from 27 human eyes ranging in age from 10 to 87 years were used to determine how accommodation and age affect the optical properties of the lens. A scanning laser technique was used to measure focal length and spherical aberration of the lenses, while the lenses were subjected to stretching forces applied through the ciliary body/zonular complex. The focal length of all unstretched lenses increased linearly with increasing age. Younger lenses were able to undergo significant changes in focal length with stretching, whereas lenses older than 60 years of age showed no changes in focal length with stretching. These data provide additional evidence for predominantly lens-based theories of presbyopia. Further, these results show that there are substantial optical changes in the human lens with increasing age and during accommodation, since both the magnitude and the sign of the spherical aberration change with age and stretching. These results show that the optical properties of the older presbyopic lens are quite different from the younger, accommodated lens.