Aging in Place, Interior Design and Decorating

The Aging Eye: Color and Lighting

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. How colors may an older eye.

The colors your parents are seeing are not the colors that you are seeing and the colors that you see, are not the colors that your children see. Keep these thoughts in mind when choosing colors for your home or for your parents home. How color may appear to the younger eye.

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 or your parents home. In general, warm colors are preferred by more people so if you are trying to paint for resale, stick with the warmer colors. Warmer colors are those you think about for warmth like the sun.  The colors on the color wheel that include red, orange, yellow and warm greens with yellow in them. 

Another important thing to remember is the need for more light as we age. MP900314265[1]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 so lighting can be adjusted and to 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. Another good choice is to reduce glare as much as possible by choosing matte surfaces and putting shades on lights.  Eyes that do not see as clearly can mistake shadows for steps or elevation differences and could fall when encountering bright spots of light.

Another finish suggestion is to not use glossy and shiny surfaces on the floor and counters, etc. A matte surface provides less glare does not cause the reflection that the glossy or shiny surfaces do so the result is 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, particularly those who are Aging in Place, can 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 even be the same as my yellow.

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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