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01-09-2014 | Uitgave 7/2014

Quality of Life Research 7/2014

Sensory impairments and their associations with functional disability in a sample of the oldest-old

Quality of Life Research > Uitgave 7/2014
Verena R. Cimarolli, Daniela S. Jopp



Research focusing on the consequences of sensory impairments for the everyday competence of the oldest-old is emerging. The two main goals of this study were to document the prevalence of self-reported vision, hearing, and dual sensory impairment and to explore associations of these impairments with functional disability in near-centenarians and centenarians.


Centenarians and near-centenarians (N = 119; average age = 99) were recruited, with about 80 % living in the community. In-person interviews included self-ratings of vision and hearing impairment and functional disability conceptualized as having difficulties performing personal and instrumental activities of daily livings (PADLs and IADLs).


Based on self-report ratings, 17 % of participants were classified as having a visual impairment only, 18 % as having a hearing impairment only, and 38 % with both a visual and hearing impairment (dual sensory impairment). Regression analyses demonstrated that having a vision impairment only and being dual sensory impaired were the strongest predictors of functional disability. They were associated with higher levels of functional disability over and above higher levels of depressive symptomatology, interference of health with desired activities, and living in a nursing home.


Sensory impairments—especially dual sensory impairment—are prevalent in the oldest-old. Having dual sensory impairment or a single visual impairment among other factors are strongly associated with less-optimal everyday functioning in the oldest-old.

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