A.E.Churba, author, Aging in Place

Color and Lighting and Your Aging Eyes

Over the years, I have been fascinated by color and the science of color.  I have taken numerous classes and completed a Color Consultant Certification a few years ago.  I even did color testing on my whole family and, as is predictable in my family, everyone likes a different color range.  My parents are on totally 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 my daughter sees.  Keep this in mind when choosing colors for your own home.

What may appear red to you could be very different from what your spouse 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, more people prefer warm colors, so if you are trying to design for resale, stick with the warmer colors (those with a yellower cast to them).

Keep in mind though that 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.

Consider your light bulb choices too.  Fluorescent lights save money and energy but beware, there are different types of fluorescent lights.  There are warmer and cooler bulbs ratings for bulbs.  If you add a bluer, more industrial type of lighting near food, it makes the food look dull.  If you are getting older, it could be detrimental because you might not catch if your food is actually bad and it could make you lose your appetite.

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.  They will help reduce glare and allow for adjustable, additional lighting for tasks, etc.  Make sure to spread lighting evenly throughout your room and prevent high contrast in area lighting because it is harder for the eye to compensate.  Eyes that do not see as clearly when entering pools of light or bright spots can falsely perceive elevation differences and could fall.

Another design suggestion is not to use glossy or shiny surfaces on the floor and counters, etc.  A matte surface (with less glare) does not cause the reflection that the glossy or 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 (higher lumens) and eliminating light and dark areas, those who are choosing to remain in their homes as they get older 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, or 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 well-being and provide you with a safe haven too.  Take care and if you have any questions or comments, please contact me.


1 thought on “Color and Lighting and Your Aging Eyes”

  1. Reblogged this on dreamhomefurnishings and commented:
    Color and lighting are both critical aspects of designing for senior living spaces. Alesha Churba is a top consultant and Aging in Place professional. This overview is a great summary when it comes to planning spaces for Mom and Dad or anyone with eyesight issues. Enjoy!

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