LIGHTING AND ITS EFFECTS ON AGING IN PLACE
Whether we are older ourselves or know someone who is older, this blog is for you. Baby Boomers will be the largest senior population in the history of our country and the majority want to stay in their homes as long as possible. Lighting is key to a safe and more productive environment and some of these tips can be incorporated in your personal home to help the seniors in your life feel more comfortable when they visit!
Senior eyes need special care. Seniors have difficulty distinguishing colors, reading small font, seeing distances and they have great difficulty with glare. Cataracts increase difficulty with glare. Seniors need 3 to 4 times more light per a study done by the American Foundation for the Blind. Senior pupils become smaller and less flexible and corneas become more opaque, thereby letting in less light.
With regard to color, adding blue light at night reduces the body’s ability to secrete melatonin. Yellow light is best at night just before going to bed to keep your Circadian Rhythm strong. Watching TV is the worst just before bed. Reading is the best way to lull yourself to sleep!
How do we help seniors see more clearly? By avoiding dark walls and bright lights; don’t ever use clear bulbs and remember to use diffusers or opaque glass whenever possible. Use task lights to the side and not directly in front of the task being done. Add shades and/or blinds to the windows.
In kitchens, under cabinet lighting and lighting in the toe kick are good ways to better light the space. Add fixtures over the sink, stove and countertops and if using recessed cans in these areas, make sure the lens itself is recessed up into the fixture trim kit at least 3 inches to further avoid glare. Semi-flush mount fixtures can also be used in place of or in addition to recessed cans.
In the bathroom, it’s a great idea to include nighttime navigation lighting. Most falls occur at night as seniors flip on the lights in the bathroom and then try to reenter a dimly lit bedroom. Since the pupils are less reactionary, it can take up to 30 minutes for a senior’s eyes to adjust to a change in light emission. Try lights in the toe kick of the lower cabinets, in the shower, on the sides of the mirror using sconces or pendants. Never use typical vanity light fixtures as shown below because they create glare off of the mirror and on the countertop. In addition, non-shiny countertops are best for seniors.
NO!!! NO!!! pictured below –
You can add under bed lighting that is activated when the senior gets out of bed and use automatic activation for the toe kick lighting in the bathroom. In this way, a pathway from bedroom to bathroom and back again will be well lit and the lights will go on and off by themselves. Alexa or Siri can also help to easily turn the lights on and off.
Stairs must always be lighted and make sure to use downlights, not lights that project light out from the wall. In addition, you can vary colors on the stairs from the riser to the tread so that changes in elevation are more easily navigated. Changes in elevation wherever they occur should be illuminated for seniors.
You can also use this type of light in hallways to delineate the space for easier traversing.
Use as much indirect lighting as possible. You can place lights in cove ceilings, tray ceilings, inside cabinets, over and under shelves and cabinets, and light the perimeters of the room with recessed cans.
The more indirect lighting options in a room the better for the seniors that you care about and for yourself as you age in place. Many interior designers are knowledgeable and ready to help!