Purpose: This study examined the relation of dual and single sensory impairments, within the context of cognitive function, by using the framework of everyday competence in terms of the probability of difficulty with specific personal and instrumental activities of daily living (ADLs and IADLs, respectively).
Design and methods: The Longitudinal Study on Aging, composed of individuals aged 70 and older in 1984 (N = 5,151), provided data for the present analyses. In each IADL and ADL domain, binary logistic regressions assessed the probability of difficulty associated with sensory impairment and cognitive status after sociodemographic and physical health covariates were controlled for.
Results: One fifth of older adults reported dual sensory impairment, which was associated with greater IADL than ADL task difficulty compared with single sensory loss. Further, high levels of dual impairment were shown to increase the risk of difficulty in three of six IADL tasks (preparing meals, shopping, and using the telephone) over vision impairment alone. Overall, cognitive status was a significant predictor of both ADL and IADL difficulties, which was not expected from the everyday competence framework.
Implications: Findings highlight the importance of sensory resources for everyday competence and suggest the need for effective vision and hearing rehabilitation to assist older adults in improving or maintaining their functional independence.