Lighting the Way for Our Aging Eyes

Aging Eyes

People 65 and older are North America’s fastest growing demographic group. Along with the rapid growth of this category comes a host of new products, services, and outreach activities, says the Illuminating Engineering Society (IES). One of these is the need for home lighting designed especially for the aging eye. Here’s a primer, courtesy of IES’ Lighting Your Way to Better Vision.

The issue

As we age, even healthy eyes become more sensitive to glare and require higher contrasts and illumination levels. They also take longer to adjust to changes in light levels. The need for higher light levels means greater control of sources of light is especially important.

Compensating for our aging eyes

Installing these three types of lighting can help us adjust to changing light levels, create higher levels of light, and minimize glare:
• ambient lighting. Install fixtures that are designed to conceal the light bulb/tube from view or have a diffuser to diminish the brightness of the bulb/tube to control glare. Lighting directed to the ceiling and walls will provide ambient light. Options include fixtures installed out of sight, a light valance, wall wash fixtures, or a torchiere.
• task lighting: fixtures or portable table/floor lamps with adjustable lighting levels provide higher light levels in a specific area. Age-related changes within the eye restrict the light coming in and absorb the light, so more light is needed to compensate.
• glare-free light. Light scatters within the eye, causing greater sensitivity to glare and less ability to see subtle details at lower light levels.
Indoor modifications

When installing or upgrading lighting, introduce multiple light levels, including ambient and task lighting.
Suggestions include:
• all rooms — switches and dimming controls that are easy to reach and use
• kitchen and bathroom — undercabinet fixtures, over-the-sink fixtures, strip lighting above cabinets to reflect light off the ceiling, ceiling fixtures
• hallways and areas used at night — illuminated light switches
Place enough electrical boxes to accommodate lots of task lighting and situate them in a way that reduces the slip and trip hazards posed by trailing cords.
Outdoor modifications
Install or upgrade lighting that illuminates surface and elevation changes, and makes movement easier. For example:
• pathway lighting to illuminate steps and level changes, and compensate for porch lights, which can cause glare, and landscaping, which can block mounted lighting and create shadows.
• illuminated house numbers.

Pay special attention to exterior flights of stairs. Lighting mounted at the head of the stairs may not illuminate the entire flight. Concealed rope-lights attached to the underside of the stair rail, or solar powered or electrically powered step lights can provide additional light on stair treads. 

According to IES, the presence of “quality environmental lighting can enhance the visual experience and maintain productivity for a lifetime.” For more lighting tips, download the IES guidelines:


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