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Seniors' vision may be worse at home, study suggests

November 27, 2013

Having good vision is a key component of healthy aging, and while older adults might think they can see well after leaving the doctor's office, that might not translate to the home, a new study finds. According to researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, older adults tend to score better on tests hosted at the clinic compared to those at their home.

The findings, published in the journal JAMA Ophthalmology, were based on an analysis of 175 older adults between 2005 and 2009. Scientists monitored how well seniors scored on their vision tests in the clinic and then administered a similar assessment at home. They found that more than half of the participants performed better in the clinic setting. Experts say the results are likely due to changes in lighting.

"This is a significant potential problem, both under and overestimating vision problems. The former can leave patients undertreated, the latter overtreated," Dr. Jeffrey L. Goldberg, an ophthalmologist not involved with the study, told Reuters Health.

These results raise a number of issues, and chief among them is the increase to the risk of falling. Poor eyesight and low lighting can contribute to falls, which affect approximately one-third of adults 65 and older each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There are ways to remedy the situation, however. For instance, placing night lights in hallways, bathrooms and other highly trafficked areas can have a significant impact. In a similar vein, lights with motion sensors placed at the top and bottom of stairs are a good idea, according to experts from The New York Times.