Purpose: To determine the association between visual field loss and orientation and mobility (O&M) performance in a population-based sample of older adults and to identify the specific regions of the visual field that are most strongly associated with O&M performance.
Methods: A population-based sample of 1504 persons between the ages of 72 to 92 was enrolled in the third round of Salisbury Eye Evaluation. Monocular visual fields (60 degrees radius) were tested with the 81-point, single intensity (24 dB) screening test strategy on the Humphrey Field Analyzer. Binocular visual fields were estimated from a combination of the monocular fields. The number of points missed was calculated for the overall visual field and for 3 non-overlapping regions: central (< or = 20 degrees radius), upper- and lower-peripheral visual fields. Orientation and mobility performance was evaluated by walking speed, number of bumps, and number of orientation errors on a circuitous, 32.8-m course seeded with obstacles. Log-linear regressions and linear regressions, adjusting for age, gender, body mass, height, cognitive and general health status, were performed.
Results: Loss in the overall visual field was associated with an increase in the number of bumps and decrease in walking speed. Visual field loss was not associated with the number of orientation errors. Out of the three visual field sub-regions that we tested, in terms of percentage of loss, the central and lower peripheral regions showed comparable decrements in walking speed and the central region was most strongly associated with number of bumps.
Conclusions: The loss in visual field, which occurs with aging, is associated with a decline in mobility performance. Walking speed decreases, and the number of bumps into obstacles increases, with decreases in the visual field. The number of orientation errors is not associated with the loss in visual field that occurs with aging.