Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is characterized by loss of central vision. This eye disease restricts mobility and increases the risk for falls. We sought to determine how changes in ambient light affect performance on essential mobility tasks in this population. Subjects had to step to stationary and moving targets and negotiate a sidewalk curb. In each task, lighting simulated an office environment, a moonlit night, and a sudden light reduction. Older adults with AMD were less accurate and more variable in their ability to step to targets compared to controls. A similar result was evident with curb negotiation. Importantly, both groups had greater difficulty with poor lighting. This was most evident when lighting was suddenly reduced and was exacerbated with AMD. Understanding AMD-specific mobility deficits and the influence of lighting will help design rehabilitation programs and better environments to reduce falls, improve mobility, and enhance these individual’s quality of life.
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Thesis advisor: Marigold, Daniel S.
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