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Aging: Changes in Vision

Supporting people with an intellectual disability through the “Normal” Aging Process


Aging Persons with an intellectual disability will:

  • Likely affect the daily rhythms of our homes and the community as a whole.
  • Push us to focus even more on building upon, reinforcing and developing their strengths so that their quality of life is enhanced.
  • Have frequent changes in support and residential location and their health records are often inadequate. Consequently, it may take some time to piece together an accurate picture of the individual’s health status.
  • Challenge us to find creative ways for people to continue to do the things they like to do and to continue to have a role in the home.

Other Considerations:

  • Aging takes place earlier with individuals who are intellectually disabled than the general population.
  • In the 21st century, the life expectancy has increased to 66.1 years of age.
  • Individuals who are intellectually disabled account for 3% of older adults.
  • Health needs change as they individual gets older.


Changes in Vision expected as the person ages:

  • Decreased peripheral vision.
  • Decreased night vision.
  • Decreased capacity to distinguish color.
  • Reduced lubrication resulting in dry, itchy eyes.
  • Increased risk for developing cataracts, glaucoma, and other eye diseases.

Strategies for supporting people with changes in vision:

  • Approach people directly not from the side.
  • Proper lighting can make a big difference.
  • Assist with choosing clothes if needed.
  • Use of natural tear products.
  • Unclutter home and remove area rugs.
  • Attend eye examinations yearly to ensure that there are no cataracts, glaucoma or other health issues.
  • Announce your presence when entering the patient’s room. Identify yourself by name.
  • Stay within the client’s field of vision, if patient has a partial vision loss.
  • Speak in a warm and pleasant tone of voice. Avoid speaking louder than necessary when talking with a blind person.
  • Always explain what you are about to do before touching the person.
  • Explain sound in the environment.
  • Indicate when a conversation has ended and when you are leaving the room.
  • Always keep hallway/corridor brightly lit.
  • Use a contrasting colour tape on the edges of stairs to identify the edge of the stairs.
  • Seek help from the CNIB if necessary.


  • Not every person will experience all of these changes.
  • Organizations concerned with a particular syndrome or condition may be helpful in providing information helpful for certain individuals.
  • Aging is a spiritual and psychological journey as well as a physical one.

Don’t Forget

  • If we believe that people can continue to grow and to share their gifts as they age we will support them to do so.

Information is compiled from the following:

  • McCracken Intervention Matrix –McCracken -College of Nursing and Health, University of Cincinnati and Lotteman Children, Inc. Covington, KY
  • A Focus on Geriatrics Sharing the Learning St Vincent Hospitals part of Providence Health Care
  • Age Changes and what to do about it Phyllis Kultgen and Peggy Hotz
  • Management Guidelines Development Disability Version 2, 2005.

Original material compiled by Jane Powell of L’Arche Ontario
Adapted with permission from

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