Lighting Research Center

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Light & Health

Light and Older AdultsOlder Adults

As we age, changes take place in the visual system, impacting the lives of older adults in three major ways: decreased ability to see, changes in balance and postural stability leading to a higher risk of falls, and changes in the circadian system that can impact quality of sleep. These changes can severely impact the independence of older adults. Scientists at the LRC have developed and tested lighting recommendations that can lessen the impact of the aging eye on task visibility, improve sleep, and reduce the risk for falls.

Some recent research projects regarding the effects light can have on older adults are highlighted below.

General Research

Lighting Patterns for Older Adults  pdf logo

  • Light & Health Alliance

  • Related publications:
  • Figueiro MG. 2008. A proposed 24 h lighting scheme for older adults. Lighting Research & Technology. 40(2): 153-160.

  • Web site:
  • Lighting Patterns for Healthy Buildings
  • Researchers at the LRC developed a portfolio of lighting patterns to assist lighting and healthcare professionals select and place luminaires that support circadian health and wellbeing while supporting the vision and orientation needs of older adults.

Lighting the Way: A Key to Independence
This series of handbooks, sponsored by the AARP's Andrus Foundation, provides effective lighting principles for older adults and their families, architects, and healthcare providers, to improve the quality of life for older adults.

Watch a short video about lighting principles for older adults: Video

(Note: You must have Flash v. 10 or later installed to view the presentation. Click here to download Flash player.)

Lighting for Postural Control and Stability

Summaries of select research projects are linked below in PDF format.

Innovative Lighting Technique Reduces Risk for Falls in Older Adults pdf logo

24-Hour Lighting Scheme for Older Adults pdf logo

Lighting for Better Postural Stability and Control in Older Adults pdf logo

  • WattStopper/Legrand
  • Wiremold/Legrand

  • Project Partner:
  • The Sage Colleges

Light Therapy and Alzheimer's Disease

 White Light's Effect on Melatonin in Adolescents and Older Adults pdf logo

  • Light and Health Alliance

 Lighting's Effects on Sleep, Mood, and Behavior in Older Adults with ADRD pdf logo

  • National Institute on Aging, R01AG042602

Self-luminous Light Table to Treat Sleep Disturbance, Depression, Agitation in Persons with Dementia pdf logo

Tailored Lighting Intervention for Persons with Dementia and Caregivers Living at Home pdf logo

Tailored Light Treatment Improves Dementia Symptomatic Behavior pdf logo

Tailored Light Treatment Improves Measures of Sleep, Depression, and Agitation in Persons with Dementia Living in Long-term Care Facilities pdf logo

  • National Institute on Aging, R01AG034157

Light Therapy and Alzheimer's Disease and Related Dementia

Exposure to Light Could Help Alzheimer's Patients Sleep Better pdf logo

Impact of 470-nm (Blue) Light on Acute Melatonin Suppression pdf logo
  • National Institute on Aging, 1R41AG02693
  • National Science Foundation
Media Coverage

LRC research on light and older adults has been featured in various media reports. A select sampling is below. For more featured media, visit our Newsroom Media Page.

The Benefits of Bright Light for Hospital Patients
The Wall Street Journal - April 14, 2018
LRC Director Dr. Mariana Figueiro is featured in this WSJ article on circadian lighting for hospitals and nursing homes.

Shine a Healing Light: Circadian-Based Lighting in Hospitals
Medscape Medical News - February 28, 2018
"Giving hospital patients a robust light/dark lighting pattern is the most logical thing to do to promote synchronization of the body's biological clock, and we're seeing many health benefits." --Interview with Dr. Mariana Figueiro

Why light is so important for seniors' health
The Sacramento Bee - June 5, 2017
New color-changing lights that match the body's circadian rhythms have helped residents of a local senior living community see more clearly and sleep more soundly.

Quantifying Circadian Light and Its Impact
Architectural Lighting - February 2017
Melanopic lux is the wrong metric for describing circadian-effective light. Here is a better alternative.

Could Light Alleviate Alzheimer's Symptoms?
OZY - November 13, 2016
There may be hope for illuminating the minds of the almost 50 million people who suffer from dementia.

SIL Conference session to focus on the effects of lighting on health
LEDs Magazine - November 11, 2016
At the upcoming Strategies in Light conference (Feb. 28 - March 2, 2017; Anaheim, CA) the lead speaker in the Non-Visual Effects of Lighting session will be Dr. Mariana Figueiro, LRC Light and Health Program Director. In this essay, Dr. Figueiro highlights some of the topics she will discuss in her SIL conference presentation, including healthy lighting for adolescents, older adults, office workers, and night-shift workers.

How to Harness the Power of Light to Get Better Sleep
Van Winkle's - June 21, 2016
Until we evolve beyond a light-regulated circadian sleep/wake rhythm, we need to accept the relationship between light and sleep — and understand what we can do to help it along. [This article was also published in Lifehacker.]

Five Projects in Five Pages
LD+A - May 2016
This feature article profiles five lighting projects presented at the LRC Partner-Alliance Event. This selection shows projects #3 and #4 which focus on lighting for older adults: Lighting Patterns for Healthy Buildings and the Cypress Cove memory care facility.

Using light to improve sleep, reduce agitation
McKnight's Long-Term Care News - March 15, 2016
Must read article on healthy lighting in long-term care facilities, featuring the research of LRC Light & Health Program Director Mariana Figueiro.

South Bend facility sheds light on potential dementia breakthrough
WNDU News Channel 16 - Feb. 17, 2016
LRC Light & Health researchers are conducting studies at hospitals and long-term care facilities across the U.S. to measure whether intense light therapy affects wellbeing of older adults with Alzheimer's. One of the facilities was featured in this inspiring local news story.

Enlightened minds
APA Monitor on Psychology - January 2016
A growing field of research suggests that surrounding ourselves with the right dose of electric light can boost mood and cognitive function, especially for those most susceptible to sleep disorders.

Improved lighting helps people suffering Alzheimer's disease
WNYT News Channel 13 - Sept. 29, 2015
Benita Zahn visits the Lighting Research Center to speak with Mariana Figueiro about a new study utilizing tailored lighting to benefit individuals with Alzheimer's disease.

TEDMED: Mariana Figueiro - May 5, 2015
How can we harness the power of light to improve health? Mariana Figueiro, Light & Health Program Director at the Lighting Research Center, explains in her TEDMED talk. Watch the video. For more information, also see Dr. Figueiro's TEDMED guest blog post.

Lighting Affects Dementia Patients' Sleep
Today's Geriatric Medicine - September/October 2014
"A light treatment tailored to increase circadian stimulation during the day can be used to increase sleep and, therefore, quality of life in those with ADRD," Figueiro says.

The Value Proposition: Where are the Products? pdf logo
LD+A - May 2014
The non-visual benefits of light on human health are real and multifaceted, but remain largely unrealized because there are few lighting products designed to deliver those benefits. The best evidence of success lies in developing lighting applications for older adults.

Light tests at RPI to help the early birds sleep
Times Union - March 2014
A flashing mask that looks like it belongs at a techno-rave party might hold the key to a better night's sleep for elderly people who wake up in predawn hours and have difficulty falling back to sleep.

Bluish Light May Help Alzheimer's Patients Find Bearings
NPR - February 2014
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is trying to help Alzheimer's patients experience fewer behavioral issues. Robert Siegel speaks with researcher Mariana Figueiro and psychiatrist Guerman Ermolenko.

Light for Better Sleep pdf logo
Residential Lighting - November 2013
Mariana Figueiro Q+A: Lighting Research Center study on lighting systems for Alzheimer's patients could help an aging population.

A 24-Hour Lighting Scheme for Older Adults pdf logo
LD+A - February 2013
Since light impacts more than just our vision, it is important that lighting schemes implemented in senior residences also account for the needs of our non-visual systems.

View a list of publications, journal articles, and conference papers on light and health issues by Lighting Research Center scientists.








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