Environmental and behavioural interventions to reduce activity limitation and improve quality of life in older people with visual impairment

Visual impairment in older people is associated with avoidance of physical activity, anxiety and depression as well as an increased risk of falls and fractures. Standard ways to improve vision-related quality of life include provision of glasses, filters and other vision-related equipment - in other words, interventions which generally make reading or watching television or using a computer more achievable. The use of behavioural strategies to improve a person's skill and confidence in activity or environmental changes in the home, work or leisure environment, such as improved lighting or highlighting stair edges, may help reduce activity restriction and improve quality of life, both outside and inside the home. We searched for evidence from high quality trials on environmental or behavioural interventions in older adults, living in the community or in residential settings, with irreversible vision impairment which aimed to reduce activity restriction or increase general physical activity. We found no trials that met the inclusion criteria for the review. Further research into this highly important issue needs to be done before any conclusions can be made.

Authors' conclusions: 

We are unable to reach any conclusion about the effectiveness of environmental or behavioural interventions for reducing physical activity limitation in community-dwelling visually impaired older people, as no eligible studies were found. However a number of studies reviewed included only the secondary outcome measures of this review. Although behavioural interventions delivered by occupational therapists have been shown to reduce the rate of falls, we are unable to conclude if this is due to reduced activity restriction (increased mobility) or reduced activity (lessening exposure to risk). There are inconclusive and conflicting results from trials evaluating the effectiveness of behavioural and environmental interventions aimed at improving quality of life. Further research is necessary (such as ongoing Dutch and UK trials considering the effectiveness of orientation and mobility training on activity restriction, physical activity, falls, fear of falling and quality of life in older adults with low vision, and the effect of an occupational therapist delivering home safety modification, coping strategies and exercise with older people with low vision) before any conclusions can be reached.

Read the full abstract...

Impairment of vision is associated with a loss of function in activities of daily living. Avoidance of physical activity and consequent reduced functional capacity is common in older people with visual impairment and an important risk factor for falls. Indeed, the rate of falls and fractures is higher in older people with visual impairment than age-matched visually normal older people. Depression and anxiety is common in older people with vision impairment and leads to further restriction of activity, reduced social contact and reduced quality of life. Possible mechanisms to reduce activity restriction and therefore improve mobility and activity include environmental and behavioural interventions delivered by a number of health professionals, including occupational therapists.


The objective of this review was to assess the effectiveness of environmental and behavioural interventions in reducing activity limitation and improving quality of life amongst visually impaired older people.

Search strategy: 

We searched CENTRAL (which contains the Cochrane Eyes and Vision Group Trials Register) (The Cochrane Library 2012, Issue 10), Ovid MEDLINE, Ovid MEDLINE In-Process and Other Non-Indexed Citations, Ovid MEDLINE Daily, Ovid OLDMEDLINE, (January 1950 to November 2012), EMBASE (January 1980 to November 2012), Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature (CINAHL) (January 1937 to November 2012), Allied and Complementary Medicine Database (AMED) (January 1985 to November 2012), OT Seeker (inception to November 2012), the metaRegister of Controlled Trials (mRCT) (www.controlled-trials.com), ClinicalTrials.gov (www.clinicaltrials.gov) and the WHO International Clinical Trials Registry Platform (ICTRP) (www.who.int/ictrp/search/en). We did not use any date or language restrictions in the electronic searches for trials. We last searched the electronic databases on 9 November 2012.

Selection criteria: 

Randomised controlled trials (RCTs) and quasi-randomised controlled trials (Q-RCTs) that compared environmental interventions, behavioural interventions or both, versus control (placebo control or no intervention or usual care), and trials comparing different types of environmental or behavioural interventions, in older people (aged 60 and over) with irreversible visual impairment living independently or in residential settings. To be eligible for inclusion the primary aim of studies must be reducing physical activity limitation and must include a measure of physical activity. Secondary outcome measures included falls, fear of falling, quality of life.

Data collection and analysis: 

Two authors independently read abstracts retrieved by the search to identify eligibility and study quality. We contacted study authors for additional information.

Main results: 

Our searches found no RCTs or Q-RCTs that met the eligibility criteria for this review.

Health topics: