Lighting for Aging Eyes and Visually Impaired
Senior & Low Vision Lighting -
Task Lighting should allow the user to control the intensity and positioning of the light. Bedside wall mounted reading lights and table lamps should be mounted with the shade 24" above the top of the mattress using a translucent shade, one that lets some light through the fabric. Floor lamps should be located to the side and behind the reader and measure between 40" to 49" from the bottom of the shade to the floor.
for some examples of task lighting, visit tolighting.com/services/aging-eye/aging-eye-solutions.php These lighting solutions provide task lighting and ambient lighting to assist aging in place and the visually impaired. We do not endorse nor sell any products, these are provided as examples of possible lighting options. Contact your local Blind Center for more assistance.
Aging Eye - Lighting Science & Resources -
Scientists agree, as we age, we need more light. Good lighting can increase safety and the quality of life for seniors and the visually impaired.
Good lighting can make the difference between seeing and not seeing for older adults with poor vision and between comfort and discomfort. Caregivers, allied medical professionals, and service providers can improve the quality of life of older people by recommending good lighting to mitigate some of the common problems associated with aging eyes.
The link below includes PDFs for Senior Vision Health from AARP, IES, LRC, Mayo Clinic, and NIH, plus descriptions of Visual Impairments affecting seniors.
Senior Lighting Checklist - shown below or click here to download the PDF.
Focus on Aging Eyes
In this excellent article by Jeff Gavin, from Electrical Contractor Magazine, reading about Senior eyes, you will learn "...by 80 the amount of light we take in has reduced to one-fifth of what we do at age 20. ... It does take some education to learn how light affects the aging population and the best ways to light for them." Click on photos below for PDF of the full article. 
Lighting Your Way to better Vision, 2012 Edition.
A more current version is available for purchase from IES.org.
If you notice any sudden changes in your vision, see your eye care professional immediately. The leading causes of vision impairment (low vision) and blindness in the U.S. are:
Presbyopia is a condition in which the lens of the eye loses its ability to focus, making it difficult to see objects up close. Noticeable in your early to mid-40s and worsens until around age 65. Prescription eyeglasses, larger print andmore light will help you read.
Your visual field gets smaller as you age. It is the total area in which objects can be seen in the side (peripheral) vision while you focus your eyes on a central point. You may not be able to move your eye in all directions, experience reduced peripheral vision, upward gaze may be limited. Driving can become dangerous. [U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health www.nlm.nih.gov]
Eye Floaters are those tiny spots, specks, flecks and "cobwebs" that drift aimlessly around in your field of vision. If you notice a sudden increase in the number of eye floaters, contact an eye specialist immediately — especially if you also see flashes of light or lose your peripheral vision. These can be symptoms of an emergency that requires prompt attention.
Dark and light adataptation time increases dramatically with age, these are the adjustment times for a young person's eyes. "The eye takes approximately 20–30 minutes to fully adapt from bright sunlight to complete darkness and ... five minutes for the eye to adapt to bright sunlight from darkness..." [Sensory Reception: Human Vision: Structure and Function of the Human Eye, Encyclopedia Britannica, vol. 27, 1987]Create transitional light levels between rooms.
Surveys show that 40 to 70 percent of those 65 years old and older suffer from chronic sleep disturbances. Van Someren EJ. 2000. Circadian rhythms and sleep in human aging. Chronobiol Int. May;17(3):233-43 Researchers now realize the value of a dark night sleep. The elderly often wake several times throughout the night and have difficulty falling asleep. Red tinted night lights assist in keeping the body sleepy, blue light signals the body to wake up. Biological clock ...
Dry Eye occurs when the eye does not produce tears properly, or when the tears evaporate too quickly, increasing light sensitivity.
Soften light sources and avoid glare.An experience of discomfort or pain to the eyes due to light exposure or glare from bright sunlight, exposed light bulbs, clear light bulbs, reflected light off shiny surfaces, headlights.
Diabetic Retinopathy is a common complication of diabetes, risk increases with age and duration of diabetes, affecting and impairing vision over time. People with diabetes are encouraged to seek annual dilated eye exams.
AGE-RELATED MACULAR DEGENERATION
Low vision services and devices like huge monitors and large button phones can help make the most of your remaining vision Age Related Macular Degeneration damages central vision and is the most common cause of legal blindness and vision impairment in older Americans. Consult your eye doctor for treatments to slow the rate of vision loss including Photodynamic therapy, laser treatments, injections, and taking a specific formulations of antioxidants and zinc.
Cataract is a clouding of the eye's naturally clear lens, like looking through a foggy windshield. Most cataracts appear with advancing age. At first, stronger lighting and eyeglasses can help; however, in later stages, cataract surgery is a common procedure.
Glaucoma refers to a group of eye conditions that lead to damage to the optic nerve that carries visual information from the eye to the brain. The loss of vision is not experienced until a significant amount of nerve damage has occurred. Early diagnosis and treatment can minimize or limit glaucoma-related vision loss. It is important to get your eyes examined regularly, and make sure your eye doctor measures your intra ocular pressure.
Other potential causes of vision problems include fatigue, overexposure to the outdoors(temporary and reversible blurring of vision), and many medications. [U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health www.nlm.nih.gov]
Additional Senior Lighting information on my lighting design webpage: