Vision Rehab to Reduce Car Crashes Among Elderly

Special training to enhance visual information-processing ability could help prevent car accidents among older drivers, shows new research. Car accidents are a leading cause of injury-related deaths among people ages 65 and older due to declines in visual information processing that comes with aging, explain the study authors from the VA Medical Center in Birmingham, Ala. Older adults are often unable to quickly process information presented to them visually.

Researchers studied 45 veterans, ages 65 to 80, who had impaired vision. A control group received 10 one-hour training sessions on how to navigate the Internet, and the other group of 10 received one-hour sessions of speed-of-processing, or SOP, training. There was no difference in the field of vision in the two groups at the start of the study.

The study authors explain SOP is designed to improve visual information-processing ability and is a computerized instruction program that gives users increasingly challenging visual attention tasks to complete. Results show the participants who had SOP training improved their visual information-processing ability. Specifically, they had significantly faster times on tests that required them to identify a particular object amid different kinds of visual distractions on a computer screen. Lead study author Richard Sims, M.D., says the SOP protocol needs to be studied further in larger trials, and if it proves effective in those, rehabilitation may be possible for older drivers with visual impairments. He and his colleagues hope the use of SOP will result in lower crash rates among this group.

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