Create a Safer Home Today with the Right Lighting


Some parts of senior home safety are rather obvious. You know that throw rugs on the stairs are never a good idea. You know that grab bars in the shower are a fantastic idea. You probably lock your doors, keep the kitchen knives in their proper place, and take care not to overload the outlets. Hopefully, you have already invested in a medical alert for the elderly, so you have even more security and peace of mind.

But how often do you think about the lighting in your home as a tool for safety? It matters much more than you might think, especially if you are looking for aging in place solutions.

What Happens to Our Eyes as We Age

Everything about our body changes as we age, and our eyes are no exception. Most of us have experienced the decline in vision that comes with simply aging – those who had eagle-eyed vision at the age of 25 might be wearing glasses by the age of 45. That’s something we’ve come to accept as practically inevitable for most of us.

But there are some specific things that happen to our eyes as we age that can help explain the need for proper lighting in the home. 

As we get older, light doesn’t seem as bright as it used to be. According to the Lighting Research Center, our pupils slowly get smaller as we age, thus letting in less light, and the lens becomes thicker, which captures and/or scatters the light. The result is that colors aren’t as vivid, objects don’t have their usual sharpness, and contrasts are tougher to see. Though this is common among all elderly adults, it’s even more prevalent in those who have Alzheimer’s disease.

Even if light could reach the retina as easily as it once did, the retina itself undergoes neurodegeneration, which makes it tougher to see – that’s part of why we might need a new eyeglass prescription every year as we get older.

Eye diseases sometimes arise as we age, such as cataracts, macular degeneration, and glaucoma. These conditions can quickly limit eyesight. Even if surgery is very helpful, your eyes might never be the same after these conditions, which makes bright lighting even more important.

In addition, retinal neurons begin to fade away over time. This makes it tougher to see but also can cause other problems because it can become difficult to see the light-dark cycle so necessary to keep biological rhythms where they should be.

Vision Changes Affect the Rest of Our Bodies

Your vision can affect many other parts of your body, but the most marked way it can change you is by disrupting your circadian rhythm. That light-dark cycle mentioned earlier is responsible for keeping your body on an even keel. When your circadian rhythm is off, it can lead to a whole host of problems. According to WebMD, these changes can lead to insomnia and other sleep disturbances, weight gain, and even changes in mental health.

In fact, studies have shown that up to 70% of those aged 65 and older suffer from chronic sleep disturbances. Lack of sleep can lead to endocrine problems, less immunity to diseases, and difficulty with concentration. Problems with sleep can also lead to fatigue, and that can lead to issues with mobility – it’s much harder to simply get up out of a chair or step into the shower when you are extremely tired.

And that, of course, can lead to the possibility of falling. We know that for the elderly, falls can be quite significant. Though great lighting can help with fall prevention for older adults, the risk is still there, which is why a medical alert pendant comes in handy. Not only is it essential to have that medical alert technology close by in the event of a fall, but it’s also a good idea to choose a medical alert system with fall detection. This means that if you can’t press that button for any reason, the device itself has built-in sensors that can detect your fall, and will send an alert without your having to press the button. This can help ensure you get the assistance you need, even if you can’t speak.

Changes in vision and the level of light coming into the eye can also be a factor in depression. The elderly quite often report being depressed, and that is often linked to Seasonal Affective Disorder, also known as SAD. This disorder seems to be linked directly to a lack of light, which makes it common in the winter months. However, that lack of light can become the norm for someone who is losing their vision as they get older.

The Tips: Lighting for Safety

Staying safe in the home is paramount. It allows you to avoid injury, helps you to age in place for as long as possible, and keeps your home a more comfortable, inviting place. To that end, try these steps in lighting safety.

·         Strong illumination in stairwells. It cannot be stressed enough – if you can’t see a danger, you can’t avoid it. That’s why bright, strong lighting in stairwells is so important. Steps can be dangerous anyway, so every little bit of added safety helps. Railings on each side are an excellent idea, as is non-slip flooring. The light should flood the area and make it bright enough to clearly see the stairs and any obstacles that might be on them.

·         Avoid fluorescent lights. These lights offer dim levels of illumination that can easily disrupt the circadian rhythm.  They aren’t the best at revealing true colors, which can make life difficult for those who already see more muted colors rather than the vivid ones they saw when their eyes were younger. These lights can take some time to actually illuminate after flipping the switch, which can be bad in an emergency. And they usually have a significant flicker to them, one that can be quite dangerous for those who have epilepsy.

·         Use incandescent lighting when possible. Though incandescent bulbs are slowly being phased out, they are still an excellent option for those who want better safety in the home. They offer a much brighter illumination and respond instantly to the switch. They also offer true color rendering, which can help a person see contrasts and differentiate between pink and red, for example.

·         Consider LED bulbs for efficiency and safety. LED lights can offer bright light, but the best part is that they are very cool. Most models of LED lights don’t run the risk of burning the skin if they are touched. Besides that, they are quite efficient, which can save on energy costs.

·         Invest in floor lamps. Don’t just rely on overhead light. Though it is bright and helpful, it can also create shadows around furniture that can turn into a trip and fall hazard. To avoid this, place floor lamps near the places that are a little dark even with the overhead lighting. And keep in mind to choose floor lamps with pull switches, not those that twist.

·         Invest in several nightlights. Use nightlights not only to provide a bit of light to see by at night, but also to highlight areas someone might have trouble finding at night. For instance, a nightlight above a doorway can serve as a beacon saying, “this is the way to the bathroom.” It helps take the guesswork out of where someone is heading and gives them a gently lit path to get there.

·         Table lamps are great for reading. Just make sure that table lamps are of a good weight – not too heavy to move but not too light to knock over. Remember the idea about avoiding twist switches and instead looking for table lamps with easy-to-use pull switches instead.

·         Consider touch lamps for easier use. Those who have issues with mobility can benefit from a wide variety of products in the home, such as grab bars, emergency response solutions, and perhaps surprisingly, touch lamps. Touch lamps are often fitted with three-phase light bulbs that are incredibly easy to turn on and off with a single touch.

·         Rocker switches make overhead lighting a snap. We often flick on a typical light switch without a second thought, but those who have issues with mobility – especially those with conditions like rheumatoid arthritis that can affect the dexterity of the hands – can benefit from rocker switches, which can be turned on and off with a simple touch. You can even use your elbow to turn the light on or off!

·         Use proper shades. While excellent illumination is a solid goal, you don’t want that to turn into glare that can make it difficult to see or even blind someone for a moment when the light comes on. Use shades on lamps and overhead lights that will deflect the glare but still allow the illumination to spill into the room.

·         Remember natural light. If you’re looking at a home remodel that includes aging in place modifications, don’t forget to allow natural light to pour in. Strategically placed skylights, larger windows, and even protected courtyards can help boost the sunlight everyone in the home gets on a daily basis.

·         Get rid of shiny surfaces. Highly polished surfaces can catch the light, especially natural light, and may create glare that hurts the eyes and can even make it difficult to see. Make sure countertops, tabletops, and other smooth surfaces aren’t prone to glare when the light hits.

·         Add task lighting in the kitchen and bathroom. Anywhere close work is needed, from chopping vegetables at the kitchen counter to shaving at the bathroom sink, adding task lighting that makes that area much brighter keeps everyone safer.

·        Consider motion detection lights. These lights do exactly what they sound like – they come on when they sense motion. Motion detection nightlights can be a wonderful way to keep everyone in the home safe from falls at night as they will illuminate the way as soon as they detect the slightest motion.

Other Ways to Stay Safe at Home

These lighting tricks and tips can quite literally make a difference in how you see your world. But even the best lighting and the most robust safety features in the home might not be enough to prevent accidents or emergencies. That’s where Alert1 Medical Alert Systems comes in. Whether you choose an emergency alert system that has GPS and fall detection or opt for a simpler button alarm, you can access help 24/7/365 whenever and wherever it is needed, and that is a solution that is clearly right for anyone looking for peace of mind and added security..