Old and well-functioning

Flats with balconies

The number of elderly people in the Utrecht region is set to increase in the years ahead. With this in mind, we studied ways to help the elderly maintain their independence and stay in their own homes longer. Our research focused on vision.

Objective

Our research answered two research questions:

  • How does ocular straylight (blinding light) affect the quality of life experienced by the elderly?
  • To what extent is an individual’s visual function (good vision) linked to activities (doing a jigsaw puzzle or reading a map) in which cognitive stimulation is important?

We want to use the knowledge gained to ensure that the elderly are able to live and function independently longer.

Results

Results for research question 1: How does ocular straylight affect the quality of life experienced by the elderly?

Ocular straylight (being a light that could blind someone) was not found to have any effect on the quality of life. Previous academic research has shown that straylight above a certain value is unsafe when driving. Given this fact, two groups were studied: people subject to low ocular straylight values (who can drive safely) and people subject to high values (that cannot drive safely). The first group assessed their vision in relation to their quality of life as better than people from the second group did.

A strong correlation was found just rarely. The status of the intra-ocular lens (the natural lens as opposed to the artificial lens inserted after a cataract operation) did not have any effect on the quality of life either.

Results for research question 2: To what extent is an individual’s visual function (good vision) linked to activities (doing a jigsaw puzzle or reading a map) in which cognitive stimulation is important?

It was found that the ability to see contrast (contrast sensitivity) was linked to cognitively stimulating activities. We did not find the same link for visual acuity (vision). We also studied whether visual acuity and contrast sensitivity affected cognitively stimulating activities separately of each other. They do not.

However, a trend was observed for one group: retired people, who were no longer working, were not doing any voluntary work and had problems with their vision close up and seeing contrast. They generally did fewer cognitively stimulating activities. If they did do them, they did them less often.

Duration

01 May 2012 - 01 June 2013

Approach

Third and fourth-year Optometry students trained especially for this purpose studied 120 men and women aged 50 to 89. They carried out extensive eye examinations, focusing on visual function and eye health. All of the respondents had previously participated in the Longitudinal PROFIEL study. This study, which involved 802 respondents, was carried out in collaboration with the Julius Centrum at the UMC Utrecht. The current research was a follow-up to this study.

HU researchers involved in the research

Related research groups

Collaboration with knowledge partners

Julius Center Utrecht (University Medical Center Utrecht)

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