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Study: Seniors in subsidized housing have poorer vision

July 20, 2015
by Megan Combs, Associate Editor
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A new study out of the University of Alabama at Birmingham Department of Ophthalmology has found that seniors living in subsidized housing have considerably worse vision than the general older adult population.

In the first-of-its-kind study, 238 residents of 14 federally subsidized senior housing facilities in Alabama were tested for distance and near vision. Forty percent failed the distance screen, and 58 percent failed the near screen, the study, published in The Gerontologist, reported.

Researchers say the high rate of vision impairment suggests and increased need for visual health monitoring in these facilities. The data also may reiterate the importance of outreach and vision screeneing for seniors aging in place and seniors in independent living at continuing care retirement communities.

"Poor vision in seniors is associated with a loss of mobility and independence, which can have a profound impact on overall health and well-being," Cynthia Owsley, Ph.D., MSPH, professor and vice chair for Research Administration in the UAB Department of Ophthalmology told MedicalXpress. "Overall, the results of the present study underscore the importance of providing vision health surveillance efforts to older adults to identify those in need of eye care and begin to address issues surrounding access to care in this population."

Researchers also found a relationship between vision impairment, cognitive impairment and chronic co-morbid conditions in subsidized housing.

"Our study found that cognitive status and chronic co-morbid medical conditions significantly contributed to predicting visual impairment in this group of older adults. Specifically, older adults with higher levels of cognitive impairment and those who self-reported having heart and circulation problems were more likely to have vision impairment," co-author Amanda Elliott, PhD, assistant professor of nursing at the University of South Florida told MedicalXpress.

Read the full study in The Gerontologist here.

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