Safer Aging in Place? Lighting May Be the Key
We are pleased to share a guest blog with you today. Jim Vogel started ElderAction.org as a means to provide resources to seniors and to adult children and caregivers who are caring for senior parents. He is passionate about spreading awareness to improve senior living.
Safer Aging in Place? Lighting May Be the Key!
The vast majority of us want to remain at home as we age. To enable aging in place, we diligently adapt our homes to the needs of our aging bodies. However, many older adults overlook lighting when modifying their home to age in place. However, if you want to stay safe at home, proper lighting is an essential part of the equation.
Eye Health and Vision Change with Age
Nearly everyone's vision changes with age. These are the age-related vision changes you're most likely to experience:
- You need more light to see clearly.
- Printed materials become blurry at close range.
- You're more sensitive to glare and changes in lighting.
- Subtle changes in color and contrast are hard to distinguish.
Lighting Changes Help Seniors See Clearly and Live Safely
Vision changes increase the risks associated with aging at home. If you can't see clearly, you're more likely to bump into sharp corners, cut yourself cooking, or trip and fall. Poor vision also makes everyday tasks more difficult. Once-simple endeavors such as reading the mail or using the bathroom at night become burdensome — or even dangerous.
Lighting changes dramatically improve the safety and livability of your home. If you plan to age in place, learn how you can change your lighting now to increase your safety in the future.
Lighting Changes for Vision Loss
It’s not enough to install brighter bulbs around the house. To create a safer home for aging in place, seniors’ specific vision needs must be addressed.
- To create more light, increase ambient lighting throughout the home. Filtered natural light is best, as it’s both bright and glare-free, followed by overhead lighting. Removing heavy curtains or drapes, adding overhead lighting fixtures, installing higher lumens bulbs, and installing skylights increase ambient lighting.
- To accommodate the decreased ability to adjust to sudden lighting changes, keep lighting levels consistent between rooms. Increase lighting in dim spaces like staircases and hallways to compensate for a lack of natural lighting.
- Make work areas safer and more comfortable by adding task lighting, particularly in the kitchen and bathroom. Under-cabinet lights, swing arm lamps, and track lighting are excellent sources of task lighting.
Designing a Home Lighting Plan
Most homes don’t have the exact same lighting in every room. Aesthetics, function, and variances in natural light call for different lighting solutions for each room of the home. Consider these tips when designing a lighting plan for your home:
- Add under-cabinet lighting or overhead track lighting to illuminate work areas.
- Use LED tape to add light inside cabinets and drawers.
- Use up-lighting to increase ambient light without creating glare on reflective surfaces.
- Position vanity lights on either side of the mirror rather than overhead.
- Install low-wattage lighting for nighttime bathroom trips.
Living Areas and Bedrooms
- Rely on overhead lighting and windows for ambient light.
- Choose full-spectrum bulbs over incandescent bulbs, which cast a yellow light.
- Place lamps and wall-mounted lights in reading areas for task lighting. Use lampshades to prevent glare and shadows.
Hallways and Staircases
- Increase the lumens of overhead lighting to ensure hallways and staircases are well-lit.
- Use LED step lighting to illuminate stairs.
In addition to these changes, consider changing how your lights operate. Motion-activated lighting, especially at entrances and in bathrooms and hallways, ensures you don’t have to fumble for light switches in the dark. Dimmer switches let you adjust lighting levels throughout the day so lighting remains consistent despite changing sunlight. And for tech-savvy seniors, smart lighting adds the ability to turn lights on and off using a smartphone or voice command.
Changing your home’s lighting is one of the most cost-effective ways to increase safety for aging in place. When you can see clearly, life is more convenient and you’re less likely to suffer a disabling accident at home. As a result, you enjoy more years living life on your own terms.
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