Normal Age-Related Vision Loss
and Related Services for the Elderly

by Donia E. Nolan (2002)

Supervised by Dr. LaurenScharff
Stephen F. Austin State University


This entire paper contains several sections: Introduction,Changes in Vision and TheirEffects, Impact of LowVision, Available Services,Obstacles to Services, theNeed for Additional Services and anInterdisciplinary Approach, and References.


It is well known that our bodies change as we develop throughoutlife. It is also well known that those changes include impairments ofour bodies' systems with older age. One system that experiencesimpairing changes with older age is the human visual system. Changesin the eyes and the visual pathways of the brain impair the vision ofelderly persons in ways that can significantly disable them, and canprevent the elderly from living independent lifestyles. Mostcommunities have organizations that offer services to help theelderly modify their lifestyles so that they may continue theactivities they enjoy. Unfortunately, there are many obstacles toobtaining and using these services, including finances, knowledge ofthe services, and the knowledge of service providers. Many of theseobstacles could be overcome if professionals would take amulti-disciplinary approach to the issue of age-related low vision.The rehabilitation of senior citizens with low vision should involveprofessionals from several disciplines, including general physicians,optometrists, ophthalmologists, rehabilitation specialists, andin-home care providers. Without the interactions of professionalsfrom all these disciplines, the low-vision elderly receiveineffective treatment and continue to struggle to function ininappropriate environments.

This paper is a project designed to make others aware of theissues surrounding changing vision in the elderly. Information forthis project was drawn from personal experience, interviews, andliterary research of recent journal articles and on-lineresources.

The first section of the paper, Changesin Vision and Their Effects, will discuss the anatomical andneurological changes the human visual system undergoes during age aswell as the effects these changes have on visual functioning.

The second section, Impact ofLow Vision, discusses the ways that these changes impact thedaily lives of senior citizens. Four main areas of daily impact willbe discussed: driving, social activities, health care, andself-care.

The third section, AvailableServices, will again discuss the four main areas of daily impactby listing services available to senior citizens to help themovercome their visual impairments.

Obstacles to Services isthe fourth section, which will discuss the barriers senior citizensface when seeking assistance.

The final section, the Need forAdditional Services and an Interdisciplinary Approach, willdiscuss the services that still need to be provided to better servesenior citizens with age-related low vision and will describe thereasons why a multi-disciplinary approach to vision and aging isnecessary.

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