Lighting Design for Seniors: Improve Visibility with These Lighting Tips
Among the many physical changes we experience as we age, vision loss is one of the most prevalent. In fact, two out of every three people who are legally blind in the United States are seniors who lost vision as a result of age-related eye conditions. And when compared to those between the ages of 18 and 44, seniors are nearly three times as likely to report visual impairment. By 2030, rates of severe vision loss will double with the aging population, making up about 20 percent of the community.
While preventing vision loss takes a lifetime of healthy habits, often times it is beyond the individual’s control. Many seniors experience diminished eyesight despite a lifetime of taking care of their macular help. And while there may not be much they can do about that, there are certain changes to lighting one can make to improve visibility, particularly around the home.
Having sufficient light and improving visibility is significant for seniors because they reduce the risk of falls in the home. While a big part of fall prevention for seniors is focusing on the individual’s conditions, modifying the environment is equally important. About half of all falls are caused by home or environmental hazards. Making the home accessible for aging in place isn’t a one-size-fits-all project — it requires several design changes. However, if you are wanting to make your own home more accessible, lighting is a good place to start.
Stairs and Hallways
One of the most pressing things to remember about lighting design for seniors is that older eyes are less able to adjust to sudden changes of brightness. Keeping lighting consistent from room to room is as important as having sufficient light in any one area. We often don’t think about the loss of light in hallways and staircases, but these high traffic areas where seniors need light the most. Try installing motion-sensitive night lights in outlets for stairs and hallways to ensure that there is always light in these precarious areas when you need it. Or, consider installing LED strip lights along the perimeter and modifying them to turn on with an automatic motion sensor.
Homeowners need plenty of light in the kitchen to make it easier to prepare and cook meals. When looking at lighting options, avoid fixtures with shades that need to be cleaned regularly. Seniors need low-maintenance features that don’t get dirty easily. Also, avoid exposed lamps that create a glare. Try layering light in the kitchen with a mix of fixtures with heat-resistant LED bulbs and undercabinet task lighting that makes it easier to see inside cupboards.
As we age, it becomes more difficult to sleep through the night without having to get up for a bathroom break. Having automatic lights that illuminate the path between bedroom and bathroom is essential for aging-in-place. As far as bathroom lighting goes, it’s best to layer and have different sources of light with varying luminosities. While it’s great to have a lot of bathroom light in the morning, turning on harsh lights in the middle of the night can feel jarring. A low-wattage light that is on all night or responds to movement should do the trick.
The living room is another high-traffic area that benefits from layered lighting. While you want plenty of overhead lighting for general use, it’s also important to have task lighting in areas where you read or watch television. Look for low vision lamps that are easily adjustable to prevent glare and reduce eye strain.
It’s very common for eyesight to diminish as we age. Adding enough light to the home environment is a great way to improve visibility and prevent accidents so seniors can safely age in place. While different rooms have different lighting needs, an important thing to remember is keeping light consistent and comfortable to avoid eye strain in seniors.