How to Recognize Vision Loss in an Older Person

Certain behaviors indicate an individual may be experiencing a vision loss. Be alert if a person has difficulty in the following areas:

Performing Daily Activities:

  • Changes the way he or she reads, watches television, drives, walks, or performs hobbies - or stops doing one or more of these activities.
  • Squints or tilts his or her head to the side to get an object into focus.
  • Has difficulty identifying faces or objects.
  • Has difficulty locating personal objects, even in familiar areas.
  • Reaches out for objects in an uncertain manner.
  • Has difficulty identifying colors and selects clothing in unusual color combinations.

Reading and Writing

  • Can no longer read the mail or a newspaper.
  • Holds reading material very close to the face or at an angle.
  • Writes less clearly or precisely and has difficulty writing on line.
  • Finds lighting in the room inadequate for reading and other activities.


  • Brushes against the wall while walking.
  • Consistently bumps into objects.
  • Has difficulty walking on irregular or bumpy surfaces.
  • Goes up and down the stairs slowly and cautiously, even though he or she has no other physical limitations.

Eating and Drinking

  • Has difficulty getting food onto fork.
  • Has difficulty cutting food or serving from a serving plate.
  • Spills food off the plate while eating.
  • Pours liquids over the top of the cup.
  • Knocks over liquids while reaching across the table for another item.

If you notice these behaviors, encourage the older person to have an eye examination by an ophthalmologist and a low vision specialist (an optometrist with a specialization in low vision).

Note: even if you don't notice all of these behaviors, it's important to encourage every older person to have regular, routine eye care.

Last Revised: October 22, 2014