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Amanda Elliott, Gerald McGwin, Cynthia Owsley; Vision Impairment among Older Adults Residing in Federally Subsidized Senior Housing Communities. Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 2014;55(13):6082.
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To examine the rate of vision impairment and the relationship between vision impairment, cognitive impairment and chronic co-morbid conditions in residents of federally subsidized senior housing communities. Residents in these communities have low income and very limited financial resources. We hypothesized that their vision impairment rate would be higher than that of community dwelling older adults in the general population, and that cognitive status and the presence of co-morbid conditions may contribute to these rates of vision impairment.
Vision screening events were held at 14 federally subsidized senior housing communities in Jefferson County, Alabama for residents ≥ 60 years of age. Habitual (walk-in) visual function (distance acuity, near acuity, contrast sensitivity), cognitive status, and self-reported chronic co-morbid medical conditions were assessed.
A total of 238 residents participated in the vision screenings. The vast majority (75%) of the sample was African American. Vision impairment was common, with 40% of participants having worse than 20/40 distance acuity in at least one eye and 58% having worse than 20/40 near acuity in at least one eye. Additionally, 65% failed the contrast sensitivity screening (Pelli-Robson contrast sensitivity < 1.50 in at least one eye). A total of 31% of seniors had cognitive impairment (Mini-mental state exam scores < 24). Regarding co-morbid medical conditions, 31% had circulation problems, 39% had diabetes, 41% had heart problems, and 76% had hypertension (59% had two or more of these). Visual acuity was worse in those with worse cognition. Persons with heart and circulation problems also had worse vision. Multiple regression analyses found that MMSE score and heart problems significantly increase the likelihood of having vision impairment.
This study provides visual status information about a socioeconomically disadvantaged segment of the older adult population in the U.S. Vision impairment was common. Cognitive impairment and co-morbid chronic conditions accounted for a small to moderate percentage of the variance in distance vision, near vision and contrast sensitivity.
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