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Poor Vision Can Isolate Seniors

MONDAY, Dec. 17 (HealthDay News) -- Fear of falling leads about half of seniors with poor vision to limit their social activities, which puts them at risk for social isolation and disability, a new study shows.

Researchers compared nearly 250 older adults with eye disease and about 100 with normal vision. Only 16 percent of those with normal vision said they limited their activities due to a fear of falling, compared with 40 percent to 50 percent of those with vision problems.

People who were most likely to say they limited their activities due to the fear of falling were women, had worse vision, were more likely to be depressed and had a greater number of other health problems, according to the study, which was published recently in the journal Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science.

"I was ... surprised at how frequently people with eye disease reported limiting their activities due to fear of falling," study author Ellen Freeman, of the ophthalmology department at the University of Montreal, said in a journal news release. "Clearly, this is something that is affecting many people with eye disease."

The findings are not only important for older adults with eye disease, but also for their families, doctors and those who provide low-vision rehabilitation services.

"It is important to know more about which activities are being limited due to fear of falling," Freeman said. "We can then develop and test interventions to help people feel more confident about their ability to safely do those activities."

"If we could develop a brief, effective intervention focused on select activities, I would like to see it offered in the clinical setting," she said. "Then we could encourage people to see a low-vision rehabilitation specialist if they want more training."

Freeman and her colleagues said older adults with eye disease should stay as mobile as is safely possible to help prevent health problems associated with being inactive, including disability and death.

More information

The U.S. National Institute on Aging has more about aging and your eyes.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science, news release, Dec. 11, 2012

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