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AFBAmerican Foundation®
for the Blind

Expanding possibilities for people with vision loss

How to Recognize Vision Loss in Older People

There are certain behaviors that indicate an individual may be experiencing vision loss. Be alert if a person has difficulty in the following areas:

Performing Daily Activities

  • Changes the way that he or she reads, watches television, drives, walks, or performs hobbies or stops doing one of more of these activities.

  • Squints or tilts his or her head to the side to get an object into focus.

  • Has difficulty identifying faces or objects.

  • Has difficulty locating personal objects, even in a familiar environment.

  • Reaches out for objects in an uncertain manner.

  • Has difficulty identifying colors and selects clothing in unusual color combinations.

Reading and Writing

  • Can no longer read the mail or a newspaper.

  • Holds reading material very close to the face or at an angle.

  • Writes less clearly or precisely and has difficulty writing on the line.

  • Finds lighting in the room inadequate for reading and other activities.


  • Brushes against the wall while walking.

  • Consistently bumps into objects.

  • Has difficulty walking on irregular or bumpy surfaces.

  • Goes up and down stairs slowly and cautiously, even though he or she has no other physical limitations.

Eating and Drinking

  • Has difficulty getting food onto a fork.

  • Has difficulty cutting food or serving him or herself from a serving plate.

  • Spills food off the plate while eating.

  • Pours liquids over the top of the cup.

  • Knocks over liquids while reaching across the table for another item.

If you notice these behaviors, encourage the older person to have an eye examination by an ophthalmologist and a low vision evaluation by a low vision specialist, usually an optometrist with a specialization in low vision. Even if you don't notice these behaviors, it's important to encourage every older person to have regular, routine eye care.

For additional information about vision loss, and the services provided by ophthalmologists, low-vision specialists, and vision rehabilitation specialists, contact your state rehabilitation agency or local agency serving people who are blind or visually impaired. Check your local telephone directory, or call the American Foundation for the Blind for a referral at (800-232-5463), or search the Services Center.

For AFB Press titles of related interest, see the AFB Bookstore.

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