11 Lighting Tips for Seniors

How to Light Your Home for Changing Vision

Getting older means having reduced eyesight. 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 effect vision. These conditions 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. Here are some tips for how to design lighting in your home for aging eyes. 

  • 01 of 10

    Indoor Lighting Contributes to Safety and Independent Living

    Wall Sconce with Candle Lights

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    Changes to make the home safer with light include ambient lighting for moving around the house, and a bright task light available for important activities such as reading instructions on medicine containers.

  • 02 of 10

    Seniors Benefit From More Light

    Woman with child on couch

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    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. Another reason is because seniors are home more.

  • 03 of 10

    Seniors Need More 'Cooler' Lights

    Living room with warm light

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    Incandescent lights tend to be warmer lights—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, such as halogen bulbs and cooler fluorescent bulbs, can help add to the ability of older eyes to distinguish colors. 

  • 04 of 10

    Choose Lights With Less Contrast

    The floor lamp with a new 3-way LED light bulb
    Bill Lewis

    Older eyes find contrast harder to deal with and may adapt to changes in light level more slowly. Ambient lighting helps with safe movement around areas like stairways and hallways. This type of lighting is most effective 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. Areas that lead you outdoors, like a foyer, should be illuminated with higher light levels to ease the transition for older eyes.

    Continue to 5 of 10 below.
  • 05 of 10

    Seniors Need More Task Light

    An older man working at a table
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    For some tasks, someone aged 60 may need ten times the light than a 20-year-old would require. Dimmable pendants or a chandelier over the dining room table allows for brighter light during eating and other activities.

    For the senior reading in bed or a chair, or doing craft projects, reading lights, and controls for them within easy reach, are very helpful. Additionally, more light available in the kitchen in work areas will help make food preparation comfortable and safe.

  • 06 of 10

    Make Task Lighting as Adjustable as Possible

    A man painting the Golden Gate bridge
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    Being able to adjust the light’s intensity, location, and direction will make tasks easier on senior eyes. You’ll also want to pay particular attention to keeping such lighting from producing glare. Sometimes having multiple light sources is more effective than having just one bright bulb.

  • 07 of 10

    Use Indoor Lighting That Mimics Nature's Patterns

    A living room with warm light
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    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 a bright cool light for mornings and daytime and warm dimmer light for evenings. This configuration will help to aid the natural human circadian rhythm.

  • 08 of 10

    Make Lighting Switches Accessible

    A light switch dimmer
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    When possible, put light switches where they’re easily accessible when needed, for safety as well as for ease of use. Include group controls to help make multiple adjustments for the appropriate time of day and activities.

    Continue to 9 of 10 below.
  • 09 of 10

    Use Dimming Controls

    A set of dimmer switches
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    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.

  • 10 of 10

    Consider Scene Controls

    A floor lamp with a new 3-way LED bulb
    Bill Lewis

    Modern lighting automation includes the possibility of adjusting multiple light sources with a single control such as a smart phone or tablet. With LED lights and LED dimmer lights, you can even often control the color of the light. “Scenes” might include general daytime and general evening, TV watching, reading, crafts, cooking preparation, and eating times.

It will take some effort and adjusting, but making some or all of these changes to your home's lighting will be worth it. Once you've created a safe, well lit environment, all you'll need to do is sit back and enjoy your favorite activities.