Vision & Falls

Falls are one of the leading causes of injuries and fatalities in older adults, with at least a third of people over the age of 65 reporting a fall at least once per year, with around half of these people reporting multiple falls. Falls rates are particularly high in older and frailer people, with falls accounting for a large number of accidental deaths. Falling thus represents an important health issue in our older population.

Visual impairment is an important risk factors for falls. Visual impairment impacts on mobility performance, resulting in increased difficulties in obstacle avoidance and locomotion planning. The visual system is also a key sensory contributor to postural control; older adults with visual impairment show greater postural instability. Importantly, postural instability is a risk factor for falls.

Our research seeks to examine the associations between visual impairment from a range of ocular diseases and balance, mobility and falls risk.

Ocular Disease & Falls

Falls are common among older adults with visual impairment, and are linked to severity of vision loss.  Our research on falls among older adults with glaucoma has highlighted the importance of the inferior visual field region in falls risk and postural stability, and assists in identifying older adults with glaucoma at risk of future falls, for whom potential interventions should be targeted. Our research on falls among older adults with age-related macular degeneration has shown that increased visual impairment was significantly associated with an increased incidence of falls and other injuries. Reduced contrast sensitivity was shown to be significantly associated with increased rates of falls, injurious falls and injuries in this group.

Fear of Falling

There are also important psychological consequences following a fall, including depression, anxiety, activity restriction, and fear of falling. Fear of falling affects 20 to 40% of community-dwelling older adults and is not limited to those who have previously experienced a fall. Older adults who experience fear of falling may subsequently restrict their physical and everyday activities, which can lead to functional decline, depression, increased falls risk, and reduced quality of life.

Our research has been investigating fear of falling among older adults with age-related macular degeneration.  These findings will provide a better understanding of factors associated with fear of falling specific to older adults with vision impairment: including risk factors for development or progression of fear of falling, and consequences of fear of falling specific to this population.

Chief Investigators