Changes to the number of photoreceptors (rods) in the retina, hardening or yellowing of the lens of the eye, increase in floaters, decrease in the pupil size, and common eye diseases like cataracts and glaucoma all can reduce the amount of light that the eye can use and increase how sensitive the eye is to glare. The eye also often becomes less sensitive to blues.
When we get older, our eyes may change and our activities may also change. Here are some tips for how to design lighting in your home... for aging eyes.
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Indoor Lighting Contributes to Safety and Independent Living
Changes to make the home safer with light include ambient lighting for moving around the house and bright task light available for important activities such as reading instructions on medicine containers. And safer living means more time living independently.
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In General, Seniors Need More Light
In general, significantly more light is needed in the home for seniors. In part, this is because of common eye changes and eye disorders in which the eye needs more light to see at the same level it used to with less light. In part, it’s simply because seniors are home more.
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In General, Seniors Need More "Cooler" Lights.
Incandescent lights tend to be warmer (a lower color temperature) – more in the yellow and red family. Cooler light, including daylight, is likely to be perceived as brighter. Aging eyes tend to have yellowing lenses, and thus the ability to see in the cool range is diminished. Using more cool light -- halogen bulbs and cooler fluorescent bulbs -- can help add to the ability of older eyes to distinguish colors.
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In General, Seniors Need Lights with Less Contrast.
Older eyes find contrast harder to deal with and may adapt to changes in light level more slowly. The ambient lighting to help with safe movement around such areas as stairways and hallways will be more helpful if it’s consistent in level and contrast. Fixtures that create contrasts – scallop lights in a hallway, for instance – may be distracting and even dangerous. Lighting outside is considerably brighter than inside, so areas that take you to the outside next – a foyer, for instance – will... be more helpfully lit at higher light levels to make that transition easier on older eyes.Continue to 5 of 10 below.
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Seniors Need More Task Light.
For some tasks, someone aged 60 may need ten times the light that a person of 20 would need. Dimmable pendants or a chandelier over the dining room table, for instance, allows for brighter light during eating and other activities at the table. For the senior reading in bed or in a chair, or doing craft projects, reading lights, and controls for them within easy reach, are very helpful. More light available in the kitchen in work areas will help make food preparation comfortable and safe,... including making it easier to read directions.
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Make Task Lighting as Adjustable as Possible.
Being able to adjust the light’s intensity, location and the direction of the light will make tasks easier on senior eyes. You’ll also want to pay particular attention to keeping such lighting from producing glare. Sometimes, this means having multiple light sources is more effective than having just one bright bulb.
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Use Indoor Lighting That Mimics Nature's Patterns.
Indoor lighting that mimics nature promotes better sleep patterns and better sleep patterns in seniors promotes better health. Light indoor spaces with natural and artificial light for bright cool light for mornings and daytime and warm dimmer light for evenings, to make regulating the natural human circadian rhythm easier.
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Put Lighting Controls (switches) where They're Accessible and Make Sense.
Where possible, put light switches where they’re easily accessible when needed, for safety as well as for ease of use. Group controls to help make multiple adjustments for the appropriate time of day and activities.Continue to 9 of 10 below.
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Use Dimming Controls Where Possible.
Older eyes are more sensitive to light level. Dimmers make it possible to control the level of light to adjust for the time of day, activities at the time and time of day.
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Consider Scene Controls.
Modern lighting automation includes the possibility of controlling multiple light sources with a single control. With LED lights you can even often control the color of the light. “Scenes” might include general daytime and general evening, TV watching, reading or crafts time, cooking preparation time, eating times.