Vision Impairment and Participation in Cognitively Stimulating Activities: The Health ABC Study

Varshini Varadaraj, Beatriz Munoz, Eleanor M. Simonsick, Bonnielin K. Swenor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background: Engagement in cognitively stimulating activities is associated with decreased rates of cognitive decline in older adults. However, most cognitively stimulating tasks require good vision, potentially affecting the ability of visually impaired adults to engage in these activities. We examined the relationship between vision and participation in cognitively stimulating activities. Method: Data from the Health, Aging, and Body Composition study (1999-2005) were analyzed. Associations between visual function (visual acuity [VA], contrast sensitivity [CS], and stereo acuity [SA] impairments) and annual rates of change in number of cognitively stimulating activities (by self-report) performed at least once a month were examined. Results: Analyses included 924 participants aged 75.2 ± 2.8 years. At baseline, impaired CS (27%) and SA (29%) were associated with participation in fewer cognitive activities (β = -0.33, 95% CI = -0.63, -0.03 and β = -0.32, 95% CI = -0.61, -0.03, respectively), while VA (8%) was not (β = -0.34, 95% CI = -0.81, 0.13). In longitudinal models, groups with and without VA, CS, and SA impairments exhibited declines in monthly cognitive activities over time. Annual rates of decline were relatively higher in the VA (β = -0.16, 95% CI = -0.26, -0.05) and CS (β = -0.14, 95% CI = -0.19, -0.09) impaired groups than observed in the respective unimpaired groups (no VA: β = -0.12, 95% CI = -0.15, -0.10; no CS: β = -0.12, 95% CI = -0.15, -0.09), but did not achieve statistical significance. Stereo acuity (β = -0.13, 95% CI = -0.17, -0.09) and no SA (β = -0.13, 95% CI = -0.16, -0.10) groups had similar rates of decline. Conclusions: Visually impaired older adults participate in fewer cognitive activities and although participation decline is similar to the non-impaired, lower overall participation indicates a need to identify cognitively stimulating activities accessible to visually impaired older adults.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)835-841
Number of pages7
JournalJournals of Gerontology - Series A Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2021


  • Cognition
  • Cognitive Aging
  • Sensory
  • Vision loss

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aging
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


Dive into the research topics of 'Vision Impairment and Participation in Cognitively Stimulating Activities: The Health ABC Study'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this