Lighting Research Center

Advancing the effective use of light for society and the environment

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What can I do to make lighting more effective for older adults?
  • Increase ambient light levels - Less light reaches the retina of the older eye. The light levels in living environments used by older adults should be increased by at least 50% over those comfortable for younger people. In general, ambient light levels should be at least 300 lux (lx) [30 footcandles (fc)].
  • Increase task area light levels - At least three times more light will be required in task areas to see fine details (e.g., reading prescriptions) or low contrast objects (e.g., black thread on blue cloth). Light levels on the task should be at least 1000 lx (100 fc).
  • Minimize glare - Although more light is required for the older eye to see well, care should be taken to avoid glare. Glare is experienced when light sources or bright reflections in the field of view impair vision, or are simply uncomfortable.
  • Increase contrast - Because contrast sensitivity is reduced with age, the visibility of important objects, such as stair edges, curbs, ramps, or doorways, can be greatly improved by increasing their contrast with paint or similar techniques.
  • Balance illuminance levels - Because the older visual system cannot completely adapt to dim conditions, illuminance levels in transitional spaces, such as hallways and entrance foyers, should be balanced with those of the adjacent spaces.
  • Improve color perception - Color discrimination is poorer for older adults. High illuminance levels and high-quality fluorescent lamps, rather than conventional incandescent lamps, will help older adults to see colors well.

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