Visual Difficulty, Race and Ethnicity, and Activity Limitation Trajectories Among Older Adults in the United States: Findings From the National Health and Aging Trends Study

J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci. 2022 May 20;77(Suppl_1):S39-S50. doi: 10.1093/geronb/gbab238.


Objectives: To characterize the influence of visual difficulty on activity limitation trajectories in older U.S. adults and investigate whether this varied across racial/ethnic groups.

Methods: We used data from 8,077 participants in the nationally representative National Health and Aging Trends Study from 2011 to 2019. Using mixed-effects regression models, we investigated the association of self-reported visual difficulty and race/ethnicity with activity limitation trajectories.

Results: Higher levels of visual difficulty and belonging to a minority racial/ethnic group were associated with greater mobility, self-care, and household activity limitations. Visual difficulty was associated with mobility and self-care activity limitation trajectories, and race/ethnicity was significantly associated with mobility and household activity limitation trajectories. Among those with the highest levels of visual difficulty, non-Hispanic Black participants experienced a faster rate of decline in self-care activities compared to non-Hispanic White participants.

Discussion: Promoting optimal aging for all requires an understanding of the factors that influence disparities in key outcomes. Our study provides evidence from a diverse national sample that visual difficulty appears to disproportionately affect activity limitation trajectories among older adults from minority racial/ethnic groups and particularly among non-Hispanic "Black individuals." Further research is needed to determine whether interventions to promote healthy vision may positively affect overall activity and independence and ameliorate disparities in late-life activity limitation trajectories.

Keywords: Blindness; Disparities; Sensory; Survey; Vision.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aging
  • Ethnicity*
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Minority Groups*
  • Racial Groups
  • United States / epidemiology