Savvy lighting strategies for aging eyes
As our age increases, so does the brightness of our screens—and the need for the right lighting in all of our spaces. The good news is that installing the right lighting isn’t just a favor you do for your vision. It also can be an aesthetic upgrade to your environment. You’ll be surprised to learn how much more comfortable you feel when the light is just right. And cozy is a look.
“Our pupils get smaller with age, so less light enters our eyes,” says Dr. Edward Wladis, chair of the Department of Ophthalmology at Albany Medical College and chief of service for Ophthalmology at Albany Medical Center Hospital. “Changes on the surface of the cornea and the development of cataracts can scatter light, so proper vision can be challenging.”
Wladis says the key to having the right lighting is just … lots of lighting. Bright—with higher lumen counts—and positioned strategically near where you read or craft or do your sudoku.
Mickey LaPoint, general manager of Showroom Operations at Wolberg Electrical Supply, agrees. He and his colleague Wendy O’Hearn have been flexing their lighting expertise since 1977, so they know a thing or two about illumination.
“The trick is you want more blue light during the day, and warmer light in the evening,” LaPoint says. And late at night, night lights are a very good idea, according to Wladis.
Here’s what they recommend.
Increase Light Levels
Add additional light fixtures, task lighting, or higher lumen bulbs—up to 1,100 or 1,600 lumens. (Think of lumens as the new watts.) Use a combination of floor and table lights. Adjustable task lighting—especially portable lighting—is also especially handy and good for your eyes. Think under-cabinet lighting in the kitchen over your prep surfaces. You’re striving for comfort, in addition to maximum visibility. Avoid a ceiling light or lighting behind you. It casts shadows and can inhibit visibility.
If you have dark wallpaper or dark paint on the walls, consider changing to a lighter color. Bright lights on dark backgrounds cause glare, which can strain the eyes. Naked bulbs are also not good for your eyes, so avoid the Edison bulb trend and invest in warm lampshades to diffuse your light.
Make Your Lighting Uniform
Be strategic about where you place your lamps and lights so that you’re getting the right lighting and good coverage in every space of a room. Smart-home features offer automation opportunities to minimize the need for moving from lamp to lamp to turn on and off your light. Turning a light switch is a small task but it’s just inconvenient enough to encourage you to only turn on a light that you need when you need it. Plus, it can be uncomfortable for arthritic hands. Invest in smart plugs and devices that make it easy to turn on and off your lighting with one switch or a command to Alexa.
Use Good Color Rendering
“Look for bulbs and fixtures with a high CRI value,” says O’Hearn. CRI stands for “color rendering index.” Many LED lights now have a CRI value of at least 90, she says. “The higher the number the better you’ll be able to discern colors, which is great for matching clothes and socks.”
Wladis emphasizes the need for lighting that aligns with the daylight. “It’s very important to remember the impact of light on our sleep-wake cycles (Circadian rhythm),” he says. That’s why nightlights are important, but reducing bright lights in the bedroom is also key to ensuring sound sleep and happy eyes.
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