Vision is not routinely tested when the health of older people is assessed, and the aim of this study was to detect older people with vision impairment for referral to appropriate eye care services. People admitted for assessment and or rehabilitation in three aged care assessment centres had distance and near visual acuity assessed with a simplified vision test. A pinhole test was used when necessary. Referral criteria were distance visual acuity of less than 6/12; near vision of less than N8, and people with diabetes who had not attended a dilated fundus examination in the last 2 years. Visual acuity results were obtained in 93% of patients (685/735). Those unable to perform the vision test were very ill or had severe cognitive impairment. Forty-three per cent of patients (266/646) had impaired vision and, of these, 70.6% (188/266) were referred to eye care specialists. Forty-five per cent were referred to ophthalmologists, 36% to optometrists and 20% to low vision services. This significant proportion of patients with poor vision suggests that vision screening is warranted.