First author Dr. Angelo P. Tanna of the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine -- an attending physician at Northwestern Memorial Hospital and Stephen Kaye of the Institute for Health & Aging -- and Disability Statistics Center at the University of California used self-reported data collected from 1984 to 2010 through two major population-based surveys.
"From 1984 until 2010, the decrease in visual impairment in those 65 and older was highly statistically significant," Tanna said in a statement. "There was little change in visual impairments in adults under the age of 65."
The study, published in the journal Ophthalmology, showed that in 1984, 23 percent of elderly adults had difficulty reading or seeing newspaper print because of poor eyesight. By 2010, there was an age-adjusted 58 percent decrease in this kind of visual impairment, with only 9.7 percent of elderly reporting the problem.
"The findings are exciting, because they suggest that currently used diagnostic and screening tools and therapeutic interventions for various ophthalmic diseases are helping to prolong the vision of elderly Americans," Tanna said.