Aging is great: we gain wisdom, character, knowledge, and judgment.
But it sure is tough on the eyes. The older we get, the less we see. The shape of our eye changes, the lens in our eye darkens and thickens, less light reaches our retina. To help offset these vision deficits, people over age 60 need twice as much light as a 30-year-old, if not more.
Aging-In-Place designers and contractors are sharply aware of these eyesight issues and try to include in their planning strategies a strong lighting program to offset this weakness.
Specialists in lighting design say that effective solutions don’t rely solely on more powerful lighting-although that’s important- but also require an understanding of placement, room function, natural light sources, and interior color schemes. Though potentially complicated, the good news is that these different elements allow for a lot of flexibility and customization. That means planners can use a wide variety of lighting applications to get the job done.
Here are some of the lighting tips used by these experts as they go about the business of creating well-lit environments for seniors and others with vision impairments.
- For starters, brighten the room with extra lighting. It’s called ambient lighting, and it’s the best way to provide overall illumination to a living space. And it doesn’t have to result in higher electric bills. If you’re concerned about the extra expense, then consider switching to energy-saving bulbs; a 25 watt CFL or LED is easier on the pocketbook and provides 4-8 times the light of a regular 25 watt incandescent bulb.
- Another great way to add light. Just let the sunshine in. Open the curtains, add a skylight, maximize window space in rooms with southern exposures. It’s a great daytime solution; the lighting is free and comes with a bonus: sunshine really does elevate your mood.
- Use multiple sources. One ceiling light or desk lamp may not do the trick. Layer your lighting with combinations and groupings wall sconces, recessed lights, ceiling lights, and task lights can all work together to maximize the illumination you need. Some experts say three lighting layers works best.
- Locate lighting close to the tasks you are performing. And be sensitive to light placement. For example, in an office, place a desk lamp opposite your writing hand to avoid working in your own shadow. Use the same principle with ceiling task lighting. Locate a sink light in front of you to avoid casting darkness over your work area.
- Keep lighting levels uniform throughout the house. Use lots of dimmers to balance the brightness of table lamps, floor lamps, etc. And maintaining an even balance between rooms makes it easier to move between rooms. It’s harder for seniors to manage abrupt lighting changes from bright to dark spaces or vice versa.
- Use lighting to clearly define and provide a contrast between doorways and other transition zones. This is especially helpful at night when wall color contrast (often used to mark-room or hallway changes) aren’t as visible. Gentle lighting that cues door and hallway location significantly improves home navigation after dark.
- Don’t hesitate to use indirect light. This helps eliminate shadows, reduces glare, and can seem brighter than a directly-lit room.
- Avoid high gloss surfaces, particularly on floors and countertops. These can act like mirrors, reflecting light, and creating high levels of uncomfortable glare.
- Employ light color finishes on walls and ceilings to mute bright light sources and also to reduce shadows.
- Focus lighting on strategic areas for safety. We’re talking about stairways, particularly at the top and bottom of landings, entrance ways, exits, and porches. Make sure there’s exterior lighting along walkways and garages. These are also smart places for motion-sensitive lamps or automatic devices that switch on in the evening.
Making sure that your aging eyes are receiving adequate illumination is a crucial strategy for achieving a better and safer “aging in place” life. All it takes is some thoughtful planning; a careful survey of your home’s interior and exterior and perhaps a little guidance from an aging-in-place planner or contractor. Don’t hesitate to give us a call at 604-259-9774 or email us at [email protected].
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We work with seniors, people with mobility issues, and those who have sustained a traumatic injury or health crisis.
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We build custom wheelchair ramps and offer door widening services, as well as offset hinges. We also have porch lifts, chair lifts, patient lifts as well as other elevating devices available.