We are headed into those dreaded dark winter months. Our mood grows gloomy and we feel tired and lack energy. Lighting is often overlooked in the realm of accessibility even though it is critically important. Without light, there is no perception, no color, no style to guide you. A lack of lighting can lead to falls and it also adversely impacts our mood. People most profoundly affected may develop Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) or other health problems associated with insufficient natural light.
The older you get, the more important light becomes. The lens of the eye yellows over time and eye muscles weaken. It takes older eyes longer to focus. Research has shown that many older adults require two to three times the amount of light as do adults age 20 (SeniorDriving.AAA.com). AARP studies show that the average person age 60 or older spends 80% to 90% of their day indoors. People spending the majority of their time inside under artificial lighting may suffer from fatigue, susceptibility to disease and other physical problems (Hughes and Neer).
Natural light from windows and skylights is preferred in homes, but in the winter, this isn’t enough. Homes need additional lighting from fluorescent, incandescent or LED lights. The frequency range of lighting is very important. Incandescent or full-spectrum bulbs are preferred because of their wider, more natural spectrum of colors. Older fluorescent bulbs produce more of their colors in the frequency range for blues and greens which tend to make colors seem washed out or dull. More recently, compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) have delivered full-spectrum light and replaced incandescents. Even more modern LEDs (light emitting-diodes) emit fuller-spectrum light for a fraction of the cost of incandescent, fluorescent or CFL lighting.
To prevent falls, make sure there is non-glaring light in rooms that people occupy during darker hours. Too often, lighting is chosen for style and not function. Instead, select light fixtures whose bulbs can be changed easily and turned on and off with a rocker switch, not an old-style toggle. Lights can be programmed to come on at a specific time or turned on by a smartphone. Ceiling mounted overhead fixtures are best for directing more light downward over large parts of a room. Task lighting or accent lighting can help in darker zones. Tasks lights are useful in kitchens, hobby rooms and offices where close work is done. Nightlights that are motion-sensitive can create a lighted path to the bathroom at night.
During the holidays, many people have special lights on trees and elsewhere. Make sure they are safe. Don’t overload outlets, use power strips instead of extension cords and replace damaged or frayed strings of lights. Also, be careful to place power cords where people can’t trip over them.
One relatively easy way to improve your mood and avoid trips and falls is to improve the lighting in your home. You can increase the wattage of your bulbs or add more lights. Simply hanging a mirror can add depth, light and visual spaciousness. If you need help in determining the proper lighting for your home, contact The Move Makers. Their Certified Aging in Place Specialist can measure the light in your home and give recommendations for improvement to brighten your gloomy winter months.