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Association Between Visual Attention and Mobility in Older Adults

Authors

  • Cynthia Owsley MSPH, PhD,

    1. From the *Department of Ophthalmology, School of Medicine, and Department of Epidemiology and International Health, School of Public Health, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, Alabama.
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  • Gerald McGwin Jr MS, PhD

    1. From the *Department of Ophthalmology, School of Medicine, and Department of Epidemiology and International Health, School of Public Health, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, Alabama.
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  • This research was funded by the National Institute on Aging (P50 AG11684), the National Eye Institute (R21 EY14071), Research to Prevent Blindness Inc., and the EyeSight Foundation of Alabama. Cynthia Owsley is a Research to Prevent Blindness Senior Scientific Investigator.

Cynthia Owsley, Department of Ophthalmology, School of Medicine, University of Alabama at Birmingham, 700 S 18th Street, Suite 609, Birmingham, AL 35294. E-mail: owsley@uab.edu

Abstract

Objectives: To examine the association between visual attention/processing speed and mobility in older adults.

Design: Cross-sectional.

Setting: Clinical research unit of a department of ophthalmology.

Participants: Three hundred forty-two older adults (aged 55–85) living independently in the community recruited from primary eye care practices.

Measurements: In addition to demographic, health, and functional information, the following variables were collected at the second annual visit of a prospective study on mobility: a test of visual attention/processing speed; a performance mobility assessment; and self-reported measures of falls, falls efficacy, mobility/balance, and physical activity.

Results: Lower scores on visual attention/processing speed were significantly related to poorer scores on the performance mobility assessment, even after adjustment for age, sex, race, education, number of chronic medical conditions, cognitive status, depressive symptoms, visual acuity, and contrast sensitivity (P=.04). Scores on the visual attention/processing speed test were unrelated to the self-reported measures of mobility.

Conclusion: Results imply that visual attention impairment/slowed visual processing speed in older adults is independently associated with mobility problems. Interventions to reverse or minimize the progression of mobility dysfunction in older adults should take this common aging-related deficit in visual processing into account.

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