Consistent Lighting and Senior Safety: Tips for Aging in Place


There’s a lot to think about when creating a safe environment for seniors who are aging in place. Getting from room to room safely, avoiding falls in the bathroom, and navigating stairs and hallways are always major concerns. Often, proper lighting gets overlooked. This is a key oversight because a well-lit home is essential for senior safety; in fact, one in four Americans over the age of 65 suffers a fall in their home every year (every 11 seconds, a senior is treated in emergency rooms for injuries sustained in a fall), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A dimly lit and hard-to-navigate space is a serious situation, particularly for older adults who live alone. It’s important to understand what kinds of lighting to use throughout the house to minimize the likelihood of a fall. Here’s what you need to know.

Types of Lighting

Emphasize ambient lighting throughout the house, particularly in hallways and stairways. Older adults need bright, glare-free lighting, so all sources of light should have some kind of shade. Try to keep light levels as consistent as possible from one room to the next — going from a bright to a dimly lit room can cause a senior with diminished eyesight to miss a step or lose their footing, especially if there’s an uneven transition between rooms.

Contrasting colors make it easier for seniors to maintain depth perception and make out shapes, which is an important factor in avoiding falls. Wherever possible, try to maximize natural light, so remove drapes and heavy shades and remove obstructions that might prevent illumination by sunlight.

Bathroom Lighting

Bright, glare-free lighting is important in the bathroom, where white tile and shiny fixtures can create a level of brightness that seniors may find overwhelming and disorienting. Consider placing light switches on the outside of the bathroom to reduce the risk of accidents when a senior reaches for the switch in a darkened room.

Shower and tub installations should have a light directly overhead, and make sure dimmers are installed to ease the transition from a darkened area, with fluorescent or LED light strips providing illumination above cabinets. If disorientation and confusion are factors, have a motion sensor installed that will activate lighting in the bathroom. It’s important to remember that seniors experience a diminished ability to adjust visually to sudden lighting changes, so maintain consistent lighting in each room, particularly in areas that are the most difficult to illuminate, such as stairways and halls.

Living Room/Family Room

Make strategic use of recessed lighting or wall sconces and table or floor lamps with soft white incandescent bulbs so light is plentiful, consistent, and easy on the eyes when a senior moves through the room to a chair or couch. Light glare from windows can be a source of frustration when the TV or computer screen is being used, so it may be necessary to reposition screens or keep shades drawn during the day.

High-Tech Lighting

The Luna Lighting system connects a series of battery-operated lights to a small bed sensor, activating soft illumination when a senior gets out of bed at night. Sensors automatically adjust lighting and remain on until the individual returns to bed. The system can even track and record movement patterns for greater efficiency. Smart light bulbs can be controlled by sensors or through a smartphone app, allowing seniors to maintain proper lighting without fear of falling.

Seniors experience a gradual reduction in their ability to see over distances and to cope with changes in depth perception and brightness from room to room, so it’s important to maintain a consistent level of lighting throughout the home. Use of simple technology, such as motion sensors, can go a long way toward eliminating falls in stairways and bathrooms, as well as in making transitions between rooms.

Image courtesy of Pixabay

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