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Seeing into Old Age: Vision Function Beyond Acuity.

Optometry & Vision Science: March 1999
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Purpose. To provide a comprehensive description of vision function beyond acuity in older individuals.

Methods. A sample of 900 individuals between the ages of 58 and 102 years (mean age of 75.5) was binocularly tested wearing habitual correction on a battery of psychophysical tests including high and low contrast acuity, low contrast low luminance acuity, disability glare, contrast sensitivity, color vision, stereoacuity, recovery from glare, and attentional visual fields.

Results. High contrast acuity is reasonably well maintained on average, even into very old ages. Spatial vision measures under conditions of reduced contrast or luminance, or glare reveal significant impairment in a large portion of the aged. Many older individuals also have greatly reduced stereopsis, poor color discrimination, and severely restricted peripheral fields under conditions of divided attention. A single exponential function relating performance to age fits all spatial vision data sets. The function for individual spatial measures lies at different positions along the age scale. The derived aging function with a time constant of ~15 years also fits results from other recent aging studies of acuity and contrast sensitivity.

Conclusions. Standard visual acuity underestimates the degree of vision function loss suffered by many older individuals under the nonoptimal viewing conditions encountered in daily life. All spatial vision functions show a similar rate of decline with age of the population, but the age at which decline begins varies among measures.

(C) 1999 American Academy of Optometry