Lighting for Aging Eyes

How to Light Your Home for Changing Vision

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...MORE for aging eyes. 

  • 01 of 10

    Indoor Lighting Contributes to Safety and Independent Living

    Wall Sconce with Candle Lights
    Wall Sconce with Candle Lights. Getty Images/Jack Louth

    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.

  • 02 of 10

    In General, Seniors Need More Light

    Woman with child on couch
    Uwe Krejci / Digital Vision / Getty Images

    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.

  • 03 of 10

    In General, Seniors Need More "Cooler" Lights.

    Living room with warm light
    Seniors tend to see colors as warmer, and need more cool light to counteract that tendency. Stockbyte / Getty Images

    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. 

  • 04 of 10

    In General, Seniors Need Lights with Less Contrast.

    The floor lamp with a new 3-way LED light bulb
    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. 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...MORE be more helpfully lit at higher light levels to make that transition easier on older eyes.

    Continue to 5 of 10 below.
  • 05 of 10

    Seniors Need More Task Light.

    Man working at table
    Digital Vision / Getty Images

    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,...MORE including making it easier to read directions.

  • 06 of 10

    Make Task Lighting as Adjustable as Possible.

    Man painting Golden Gate Bridge
    Photographer's Choice RF / Getty Images

    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.

  • 07 of 10

    Use Indoor Lighting That Mimics Nature's Patterns.

    Living room with warm light
    Stockbyte / Getty Images

    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.

  • 08 of 10

    Put Lighting Controls (switches) where They're Accessible and Make Sense.

    Light switch dimmer
    Only the Instructions Will Tell You if Your New switch Gets Wired Up Like Your Old One. Getty Images

    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.
  • 09 of 10

    Use Dimming Controls Where Possible.

    Dimmer switches
    Dimmer switches. Stockbyte / Getty Images

    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.

  • 10 of 10

    Consider Scene Controls.

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

    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.