A colleague recently asked me to download our best tips for designing lighting in the work we do with older adults, and we thought we would share. Here at TPD, we provide lighting layouts and specifications for our renovations and new construction, and work closely with contractors and owners so that their spaces are well-lit, comfortable, functional, safe and beautiful.
As we age, our visual needs change, and proper lighting becomes increasingly important for older adults to maintain safety, comfort, and well-being in their living spaces. From reducing fall hazards to improving visibility, thoughtful lighting design can greatly enhance the quality of life for seniors. In this blog post, we will explore key considerations for lighting in senior-friendly environments, addressing issues such as color temperature, fixture placement, task-specific lighting, and control accessibility. We think the following list is a good starting point for any lighting plan – especially when it comes to lighting for older adults!
Watch Color Temp and Consider Adjustable Fixtures
Use Dimmers for Versatility
Create Safe Pathways
Fixture Selection is Important
Use Task Lighting and Floor Outlets
Layered Lighting is Better
Provide Reachable Controls
Read more for a deeper dive into each of our tips!
Color Temperature and Adjustable Fixtures
When it comes to lighting for older adults, it is essential to consider color temperature as we generally need brighter light as we age. While we often recommend LED lighting in at the 2700K color temperature, which mimics incandescent light, we often specify a color temperature closer to natural daylight for older adults, at 3000K. Additionally, incorporating adjustable fixtures allows for personalization, adapting to different activities or spaces in the home.
LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes) are a game-changer in the world of lighting, and they offer significant advantages for older adults. LED bulbs last longer than traditional options, minimizing the need for frequent replacements and reducing fall hazards associated with changing ceiling fixtures. Moreover, LEDs provide superior light quality, ensuring enhanced visibility and reducing eye strain.
Dimmers for Versatility
Installing dimmers in appropriate areas can greatly enhance the lighting experience for seniors. Dimmable lighting allows for adjustable brightness levels, accommodating various activities and times of day or highlighting special furniture or art.
Pathway Lighting for Safety
Creating a well-lit pathway to the bathroom during nighttime hours is crucial for preventing accidents. Installing motion sensor lights, such as the Phillips sensor light, ensures that a soft illumination guides seniors without the need to fumble for switches. By incorporating timers, the lights can remain on for a sufficient duration, allowing individuals to return to bed safely.
Mindful Fixture Selection
When selecting fixtures, it is important to avoid placing fixtures directly in the line of sight, such as over kitchen islands or at bathroom vanities, especially fixtures with clear shades. Such positioning can cause discomfort and potential eye strain, as looking directly into a bright bulb is undesirable. By considering alternative fixtures with opaque surfaces as well as the height of the actual light source, you can mitigate these issues and create a more visually comfortable environment.
Task-Specific Lighting and Outlets in the Floor
Seniors often require focused lighting for reading, hobbies, or other tasks. Placing outlets in the floor near furniture where lamps are likely to be used reduces the need for extension cords, minimizing tripping hazards. Task-specific lighting enhances visibility and enables seniors to engage in activities they enjoy, promoting independence and well-being.
Outdoor Lighting Considerations
While outdoor lighting is important for security and safety, we have found that daylight sensors can sometimes be more problematic than simply switched exterior lights. Glitches in the sensors or timers can cause lighting to not function easily when most necessary – at night! It’s important to have a conversation with clients about their preferences for outdoor lighting solutions – with or without daylight sensors – to help provide well-lit exterior paths as well as critical security lighting.
Layered Lighting and Adjustability
As with any lighting design, creating layers and levels of light is crucial for customization and adjustability. We all have different preferences and lighting requirements throughout the day, and flexible lighting options allow homeowners to adapt the environment to suit their requirements. By incorporating various light sources such as recessed ceiling lights, pendants, lamps, and wall mounted fixtures, we can impact the usability, safety, mood and drama of a room.
Addressing Glare and Contrast
To prevent disorientation and discomfort, it is important to address glare issues associated with light reflections off of shiny surfaces. Be mindful of reflective materials and opt for matte or non-reflective finishes whenever possible. Additionally, contrast plays a vital role in depth perception for older adults. Differentiating between surfaces, such as floors and cabinets, with contrasting colors improves visibility and reduces the risk of accidents.
Lastly, placing light switches, dimmers, and outlets where they can be easily reached from a seated position is essential for convenience and independence. Consider utilizing paddle switches, such as the Lutron Diva or Nova T dimmer, which can be controlled with the palm of the hand rather than by pinching or turning. This ensures that lighting can be adjusted easily by those with mobility concerns.
Here at TPD, we believe that design for older adults does not need to feel institutional or cold, and our lighting plans are a big component in that design work. From selecting appropriate color temperatures and fixtures to implementing task-specific lighting and accessible controls, thoughtful lighting design can significantly enhance the quality and livability of the spaces we live in, regardless of age or stage in life.