Seeing the Light: Why Lighting Important for Senior Citizens
As people age, they consider home improvements that will make their living spaces both safer and more enjoyable. Some senior citizens choose to downgrade to a smaller and easy-to-manage home, while others improve the safety of their current household by making sure railings are tightly installed, rugs are put on slippery floors and stairs are covered in soft carpet. One factor that is often overlooked is the lighting throughout the home. While it may seem simple, lighting is one of the most important features of the home, especially as people get older.
According to SeniorJournal.com, senior citizens need three times the amount of light than younger people do in order to see clearly. This is because the lenses on the eye thicken and the pupils shrink, causing the eyes to react slower to lighting conditions. Senior citizens with dementia also suffer from additional eye impairment because they have a difficulty in distinguishing objects from their backgrounds.
Not only is lighting necessary for senior citizens because of the effects of aging, but they also need adequate lighting for safety. Senior citizens are at an increased risk for slips and falls, so it's important that they can see clearly throughout the home.
Where Should Seniors Have Lighting?
It's essential that every room has adequate lighting for both safety and comfort, but there are certain areas that require careful attention. Make sure that stairways and walkways have enough lighting, as these are some of the most common places for slips and falls. Ideally, seniors should have a light switch at both the top and bottom of the stairs so that they can switch the lights on and off without being stuck in the dark. The lights should point toward the stairs so that each step is well lit.
The kitchen is another room that needs adequate lighting, as this is where seniors prepare all of their meals and handle appliances. Seniors must be able to read the labels on food items, buttons on appliances and also be able to handle cutting and chopping confidently. To increase lighting, consider installing lights underneath cabinets. Other good choices include low-hanging lights to go over a breakfast bar or recessed lighting in all corners of the kitchen.
Another room that deserves attention is the family room or den, where reading, watching television and relaxing is done. There is no need for seniors to strain their eyes when engaging in their hobbies, so choose lighting that will complement activities. For example, floor lamps that have 3-way bulbs are ideal, since each bulb can be positioned differently, providing light from a variety of angles.
Nightlights are also important to have throughout the home, especially because seniors find themselves getting up during the night to use the washroom. Consider the areas that are dark and often traveled through during the late hours, such as hallways, stairs and bedrooms. Nightlights are easy to place in both high and low outlets to provide sufficient lighting, at least until a senior can reach the light switch.
What Types of Light Bulbs are Best for Seniors?
The standard and most basic type of light bulb is an incandescent bulb. What makes an incandescent bulb a great option for seniors is that it is easy to change, easy to keep clean and fits in standard lamps and fixtures. Because incandescent bulbs contain no mercury or lead, they can be disposed of or recycled with the regular trash.
Fluorescent light bulbs are another great option for seniors because they are efficient, produce little heat and last up to 20,000 hours. A longer life means seniors won't have to change the bulbs as much. Fluorescent light bulbs do contain mercury however, so it's important to dispose of them properly.
Turning Light Bulbs On and Off with Ease
Light bulbs and fixtures aren't the only important factors to consider; seniors must also think about how their light bulbs will be turned on and off. If possible, make sure that all light bulbs can be turned on using a light switch so that the room is well lit upon entering or exiting. As an added benefit, choose to install dimmers onto light switches so that the intensity of the light can be altered using the switch.
Other great options are rocker switches, which are larger than standard switches and can be turned on and off using an arm, elbow or even a cane. If there are rooms where the lights are not hooked up to a light switch, clap-on lights should be considered. These friendly alternatives make it easy for seniors to gently clap their hands in order to activate light bulbs.
How to Safely Change a Light Bulb
Providing a senior citizen's home with enough light is not only essential for safety, but it also allows seniors more independence and confidence. Best of all, once proper lighting is installed, seniors can maintain their light bulbs and fixtures themselves. To change a light bulb is simple and requires no tools, as long as the bulb is in a lamp or fixture that does not contain a glass reflector. If a glass reflector is present, a small screwdriver can be used to loosen the screws and remove the bulb.
1. Turn off the electricity and let the bulb cool for 5 minutes.
2. Hold the base of the bulb firmly with one hand, while turning it counterclockwise until it is released from the socket.
3. Insert the new light bulb into the socket, making sure it fits snug.
4. Turn the light bulb in a clockwise direction until is locked in.
5. Switch the electricity to 'on' and make sure that the bulb is working properly.
What to Look for When Choosing Light Fixtures
There may not be much that seniors can do about existing lighting, but if updating fixtures or purchasing a new home, there are certain light fixtures to consider. Look for ceiling fixtures that do not contain globes around them. These need to be removed and cleaned often in order to maintain their look and proper lighting. Not to mention, in order to reach these fixtures, seniors will need a ladder or step stool, which only increases the risk of slips and falls.
Floor lamps make great lighting options since they are easy to maintain. Light bulbs can simply be swapped out and a cloth or paper towel can be used to wipe down the bulbs and fixtures. Best of all, floors lamps are inexpensive, can be matched to any dicor and can be moved throughout the home.
Wall sconces are other great alternatives to ceiling lighting, especially in stairwells and bathrooms. Wall sconces make it easy to change out light bulbs and most models have openings on both the top and bottom. Sconces are easy to clean, have decorative appeal and provide ample lighting, especially is awkward places and corners.
Proper lighting is vital for the safety and independence of senior citizens. Fortunately, senior centers and retirement homes have improved their standards in regards to lighting, but it's important that the homes of seniors are not ignored. Take the time to consider new and updated light bulbs and fixtures, as well as increasing the wattage where applicable. Ultimately, seniors will find their homes more enjoyable and comfortable with these minor home improvements.
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