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Vision and falls

It is common for our visual function to decrease with ageing, however, poor vision is associated with an increased risk of falling. Older adults with vision impairment are twice as likely to experience a fall than older adults without vision loss.

A decreased visual function, in particular impaired clarity of vision, glare and contrast sensitivity, depth perception, and visual field size, can increase an individual’s falls risk.

An impaired visual function can affect an individual’s gait, postural stability, balance control, step accuracy, and fear of falling, which increases the risk of having a fall. Additionally, behaviours such as wearing multifocal or bifocal glasses can increase an individual’s risk of having a fall due to diminished contrast sensitivity and depth perception.

How can I assist older adults to check their eyesight?

Interventions that can reduce an individual’s risk of experiencing a fall include; regular eye examinations, the use of correctly prescribed glasses, cataract surgery, and the removal of tripping hazards in the home.

Older adults should see an Optometrist for an eye check every two years or if they notice any changes in their eyesight. Optometry Australia can assist you in finding Optometrists in an older adult’s local area.

Individuals who are blind or have low vision have unique needs for interpreting their environment. Use Vision Australia’s Approach, Ask, Assist technique to provide a supportive and friendly clinical experience for older adults with vision loss.

Vision Australia is a leading national provider of blindness and low vision services, supporting people who are blind or have low vision. Visit the Vision Australia website for further information on eye healtheye conditionsadaptive technology and assisting older adults who are blind or have low vision to live independently.

Questions to ask when talking to older adults about their vision:

  • Have you had your eyesight checked in the last two years?
  • Have you noticed any changes in your eyes or vision lately? For example, clouded vision, sensitivity to light, difficulty with vision at night, and dry or watery eyes.
  • Are you having trouble judging how far things are away? Do you find yourself missing the cup when pouring drinks or bumping into items around the house?
  • Are your glasses clean and free from scratches? Are they suitable for the activities you are undertaking?
  • Is the lighting of your house and surroundings adequate?

Common eye conditions

The leading eye conditions associated with ageing include:

Age related macular degeneration

Age related macular degeneration is a condition that causes blurred vision and loss of vision in the middle of what you would typically see. This makes it hard to drive, read and see people’s faces.

Macular degeneration is referred to as either dry or wet. Dry macular degeneration is more common and is characterised by a gradual loss of central vision. Wet macular degeneration is less common and results in more rapid and substantial changes in vision.

Diabetic retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy occurs due to diabetes when the blood vessels inside the retina are damaged. Diabetic retinopathy can cause blurred or distorted vision, glare sensitivity, and difficulty seeing at night, making it difficult to read, watch television and see people’s faces.

Glaucoma

Glaucoma is a group of eye conditions that affect the optic nerve connecting the eye to the brain. Early signs of glaucoma are a loss of peripheral vision, however, deterioration of vision usually occurs very gradually and may go unnoticed. 

Cataracts

Cataracts are one of the leading causes of poor vision and occur as a clouding of the eye’s lens, which is usually clear. Cataracts can cause blurred or distorted vision and glare sensitivity, making it difficult to read, see people’s faces and drive at night.

Are you interested in demonstrating the effect common eye conditions may have on an individual’s daily tasks? Vision Australia can also provide free educational resources such as eye masks which can simulate these conditions.

Stay On Your Feet® vision-related resources

Find Out More

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