Visual impairment frequently occurs amongst older people. Therefore, the aim of this study was to investigate the predictive value of visual impairment on functioning, quality of life and mortality in people aged 85 years.
From the Leiden 85-plus Study, 548 people aged 85 years were eligible for this study. Visual acuity was measured at baseline by Early Treatment Diabetic Retinopathy Study charts (ETDRS). According to the visual acuity (VA) three groups were made, defined as no (VA > 0.7), moderate (0.5 ≤ VA ≤ 0.7) or severe visual impairment (VA < 0.5). Quality of life, physical, cognitive, psychological and social functioning were measured annually for 5 years. For mortality, participants were followed until the age of 95.
At baseline, participants with visual impairment scored lower on physical, cognitive, psychological and social functioning and quality of life (p < 0.001). Compared to participants with no visual impairment, participants with moderate and severe visual impairment had an accelerated deterioration in basic activities of daily living (respectively 0.27-point (p = 0.017) and 0.35 point (p = 0.018)). In addition, compared to participants with no visual impairment, the mortality risk was 1.83 (95% CI 1.43, 2.35) for participants with severe visual impairment.
In very older adults, visual impairment predicts accelerated deterioration in physical functioning. In addition, severely visually impaired adults had an increased mortality risk. A pro-active attitude, focussing on preventing and treating visual impairment could possibly contribute to the improvement of physical independence, wellbeing and successful aging in very old age.

© 2022. The Author(s).