Aging Eyes and Color Perception

As our eyes age, we begin seeing colors with more of a yellow cast.  This is much like a newspaper yellowing over time.  Our eyes see less sharply and clearly and we need more light.  The muscles are not as strong in the eyes as they were in our early twenties and it creates visual difficulties and possible hazardous conditions as a result. 

While completing my Color Consultant Certification this past summer, I increased my knowledge about color and the science of color.  I have completed color testing on my whole family and, as is predictable in my family, no one likes the same range of colors.  Upon further questioning, I found out that my parents are on opposite ends of the color spectrum.  So, you ask, what does this have to do with anything?  Let me tell you- the colors my parents are seeing are not the colors that I am seeing and the colors that I see, are not the colors that my daughter sees.  Keep these thoughts in mind when choosing colors for your home. 

An example of this is what may appear red to one person could be very different from what the other person is seeing.  Do not assume that because a certain color is “in” that it is the best color choice for you and your home. In general, warm colors are preferred by more people so if you are trying to design for resale, stick with the warmer colors. 

Another important thing to remember is the need for more light as we age.  The eye requires more light to see things clearly.  According to a report by Robert G. Davis titled, “Task Lighting for the Elderly: Providing a Foundation for Product Development” (6/2000), some recommendations for lighting for those who are Aging in Place include installing dimmer switches to reduce glare and allow for adjustable and additional lighting for the situation and tasks. Make sure to spread lighting evenly throughout the room and prevent contrast in area lighting because it is harder for the eye to compensate.  Eyes that do not see as clearly encountering pools of light or bright spots can falsely perceive elevation differences and could fall.

Another design suggestion is not to use glossy/shiny surfaces on the floor and counters, etc.  A matte surface (less glare) does not cause the reflection that the glossy/shiny surfaces resulting in a safer home.  Another helpful piece of information from the Davis article was that dark backgrounds are easier for the older eye to read against in addition to bright task lighting.  White or light backgrounds reflect light and make it harder for the older eye to see.

By incorporating dimmer switches, installing brighter light bulbs and eliminating light and dark areas, those who are choosing to remain in their homes, Aging in Place, can continue to enjoy their space and not be limited by their surroundings.  Yellowed colors need not be a detriment in the aging process; after all, your yellow may not be the same as my yellow. 

Someone who has training in color consulting, like myself, who has a background in color and design, can help you choose the right colors and finishes for your home. Your home should not only look good but it should enhance your wellbeing and provide you with a safe haven too. Take care and if you have any questions or comments, please contact me.

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Filed under Interior Design and Decorating

8 responses to “Aging Eyes and Color Perception

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