Is vision function related to physical functional ability in older adults?

Publication Type: Journal Article
Publication: Journal of American Geriatric Society, Volume 50, p.136-145 (2002)


To assess the relationship between a broad range of vision functions and measures of physical performance in older adults.


Cross-sectional study.


Population-based cohort of community-dwelling older adults, subset of an on-going longitudinal study.


Seven hundred eighty-two adults aged 55 and older (65% of living eligible subjects) had subjective health measures and objective physical performance evaluated in 1989/91 and again in 1993/95 and a battery of vision functions tested in 1993/95.


Comprehensive battery of vision tests (visual acuity, contrast sensitivity, effects of illumination level, contrast and glare on acuity, visual fields with and without attentional load, color vision, temporal sensitivity, and the impact of dimming light on walking ability) and physical function measures (self-reported mobility limitations and observed measures of walking, rising from a chair and tandem balance).


The failure rate for all vision functions and physical performance measures increased exponentially with age. Standard high-contrast visual acuity and standard visual fields showed the lowest failure rates. Nonstandard vision tests showed much higher failure rates. Poor performance on many individual vision functions was significantly associated with particular individual measures of physical performance. Using constructed combination vision variables, significant associations were found between spatial vision, field integrity, binocularity and/or adaptation, and each of the functional outcomes.


Vision functions other than standard visual acuity may affect day-to-day functioning of older adults. Additional studies of these other aspects of vision and how they can be treated or rehabilitated are needed to determine whether these aspects play a role in strategies for reducing disability in older adults.


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