Seeing Clearly Helps Seniors Maintain Balance and Avoid Obstacles
One of the top ways to prevent falls in older adults is to make sure that their living space is always well-lit. Being able to see clearly helps seniors maintain balance and avoid obstacles.
Updating lighting in key locations is a quick and inexpensive way to reduce fall risk and help seniors stay independent.
As we age, poor lighting situations that may not have posed a problem at a younger age are now a potential risk. These may include poorly lit corridors or rooms, or nighttime trips from the bed to the bathroom. (Photo above: Mr. Beams Stick Anywhere Light)
The physiological changes include:
Less light gets to retina (1/3 to 1/5 compared to younger people)
General yellowing that affects sensitivity to blue and violet color hues
To facilitate aging in place, there are many modifications that can help combat these changes, from the simple to the more complex.
First, it’s important to understand that more lighting does not necessarily mean better lighting.
Color temperatures, placement, and intensity all affect whether additional lighting is a benefit or hindrance. Improvements can be broken up into two applications: ambient lighting and task lighting.
Since older adults have more sensitivity to glare and slower responses times to changes in lighting levels, it is important to provide even, consistent lighting in rooms and corridors. Experts suggest about 30 fc (footcandles) or 30 lumens/ft for these environments.
Here are some general guidelines to get you started:
Use indirect lighting to create a more diffused lighting source and prevent glare. Place lights close to the ceiling and ensure LEDs or bulbs are concealed from direct view. Avoid halogen bulbs which can easily cause glare.
Seek light sources with a color rendering of at least 80 to combat yellowing vision. Phosphor-coated LEDs can help provide a warmer color.
Even during the day, glare can be caused by direct sunlight through windows. Install blinds and curtains.
Be mindful of how lighting affects our natural rhythms and general well-being. Experts suggest higher blue light levels during the morning hours, slight intensity dimming in the afternoon turning to reddish light levels in the evening.
Too much light in the evening can disturb melatonin levels and disrupt sleep patterns, which is troubling for older adults already prone to poor sleep. At night, take advantage of nightlights and bounce lighting off the floor to illuminate a path instead of using brighter top-down lighting.
Lighting connected to motion sensors and ambient lighting levels are a great and inexpensive addition, especially at night to illuminate paths to the bathroom. Additionally, dimmers can provide extra control for any occasion and throughout the day, and they are inexpensive.
Task lighting should supplement ambient lighting by providing more direct intensity to activities such as reading, cooking, eating, or sewing.
LEDs are particularly useful since they provide direct and intense lighting in a small and lightweight package while consuming very little power and generating little heat, compared to traditional bulbs.
Here are some suggestions for task lighting:
Consider swing-arm LED lights placed next to bed, tables, or reading chairs. Be careful to mitigate any potential glare by placing the light below eye level and focused on the task.
Install LED light strips under cabinets and over countertops.
Practical Lighting Solutions for Fall Prevention in Your Home
Wireless motion sensing lights
Sometimes seniors don’t remember to turn on the lights or feel they don’t need them. Removing the need to turn on the lights is a great way to make sure rooms, stairs, and hallways are always bright enough.
Arthritis and loss of finger flexibility and strength can make it difficult to turn regular lamp knobs. Seniors are more likely to use proper lighting if it’s easier for them to turn lamps on.
A touch switch let’s you change any regular outlet into a touch activated on/off switch. Use mounting strips to attach the sensor in a convenient place.
This plug adapter lets you convert any lamp (with metal) into a touch-sensing lamp that turns on and off just by touching the metal part.
Some customer reviews say that, with the plug adapter, the light could sometimes turn on by itself because of (normal) minor power surges. Using a power surge protector strip instead of plugging directly into the wall socket seems to help.
Automatic Night Lights
Regular night lights that plug into wall outlets are a great choice for bathrooms, bedrooms, and hallways.
These automatic LED night lights are small, low-maintenance, and bright. They will turn on automatically in low light and remain on until morning light.