Lighting for the Aging Eye

Lighting for the Aging Eye

As we age, natural physical changes of our eyes decrease our visual abilities.

The pupils become smaller and take longer to respond to changes in light levels, making it more difficult  to move from bright to dark spaces or to see details in dim areas.These are simple facts, something we’ll all have to deal with sooner or later.
So what do we do to address this issue when we plan the lighting for our home, the home of a loved one or a senior client?

Since the average 65-year-old needs 2.5 times the amount of light as the average 20-year-old it’s important to make it possible to raise the overall level of light, possibly with a dimmer. A 25 to 50% increase in ambient light levels will do the trick without causing uncomfortable glare.

Plan for relatively uniform light levels and especially pay attention to the transition from one space to another. Highlighting a trip hazard without adding “fill light” could cause a trip hazard in itself! Use wall washing or light bouncing from walls in an indirect way to even out the levels of light.

Plan your outdoor lighting scheme with this in mind and consider adding a dimmer to your foyer lighting. At night, when you return from your bridge party, the walkway lights should transition smoothly into the lighting in your entry and not have too much of a contrast.  When you get ready to go shopping in the bright sunshine, however,  the foyer lights should be at a higher light level if there is not sufficient daylight available.
Reduce glare by using lots of indirect light all over the house and block the view of exposed bulbs, like in track lights by aiming them correctly.

With task lighting flexibility and a high amount of light output is key. A great reading light has enough flexibility to be moved close to the task at hand and has at least 150W if it’s a shaded incandescent lamp and preferably more than 50W if it’s a halogen reading lamp.

Lighting manufacturer Holtkoetter has initiated and supported extensive research  at the University of Colorado to study and develop the scientific basis of lighting for the aging eye and to research how good lighting can mitigate the effects of the natural physical changes we are all subjected to as time passes.
The findings were that the decrease in retinal illuminance requires a light level of more than 100 footcandles for optimal reading performance. Holtkoetter therefore chose a 75-Watt or 100-Watt Halogen light bulb by Osram. Its shape and the construction of the inside of the reflector, allow for a light level in excess of 100 footcandles. A matte glass diffuser and a reflector that focuses the light only on the reading material will reduce glare and scattering. Adjustable dimming controls and the adjustability of the physical reflector location allow the light levels to be set at the optimal position, reducing the need for the eye to adjust to different light levels.  The study resulted in a series of table, chair-side and floor reading lamps.

They are truly phenomenal. Not inexpensive, but impressive for their performance paired with a classic, sleek and elegant design and superb quality.

I am fortunate to own one of these “Ultimate Lighting Machines” and absolutely love it.

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