Experts weigh in on easy ways older folks can brighten up the house
From smart devices to skylights
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There are several reasons Max Tripodi often focuses on lighting in seniors’ houses.
“A well-lit home is a safer home,” he says, referring to both ambient lighting that can reduce tripping hazards, and task lighting that cuts down on the risk someone will nick their finger while chopping vegetables.
Tripodi is owner of RCA Contractors in Florida. He emphasizes that illuminating spaces can also contribute to quality of life.
“Natural light plays a huge role in the mental and emotional health of seniors, especially for those who live alone and during the fall and winter months,” he says.
Together with Chris Moore, founder of Virginia contracting company Solid Rock Enterprises, these two Certified Aging in Place Specialists (CAPS) offer their expertise about why lighting should be one of the first aspects of aging in place to focus on. Plus, they share easy lighting ideas and updates you can make.
Brighten up areas where you spend the most time
Tripodi’s process is simple: Assess areas with overall dim lighting and/or shadows (ambient list); and also write down where homeowners spend most of their time to enhance task lighting.
Most often for the latter, it’s the kitchen, reading chairs, and bedside where easy fixes can be made, he says.
“Most aging-in-place kitchens can benefit from under-counter strip lights, which are very easy to install. Several peel-and-stick options make installation quick and convenient,” suggests Tripodi.
Another quick-fix lighting idea is reading lamps or wall-mounted lights next to the bed. Plus, anything that’s wall-mounted can cut down on the risk of tripping on cords.
Recessed lighting makes a great option for larger spaces
Ambient lighting spreads out across large spaces and is a room’s main source of illumination. Recessed lights are Tripodi’s go-to for those aging in place.
“Recessed lights are easy to install, and they do a great job of spreading light across the entire room, especially in open-concept homes,” Tripodi says. “Not only that, they’re fairly inexpensive.”
For recessed lights, Tripodi recommends a smart light that syncs with voice-activated devices so seniors don’t have to fumble for a switch in the dark. For people living with arthritis, easy swaps include removing older toggle switches that have a smaller surface to grab in lieu of larger, modern toggle switches.
Including dimmer functionality also conserves energy and cuts costs.
Smart devices do the work for you
Moore is a fan of tech tools and recommends motion sensor lights. Not only does this lighting idea conserve energy, but as many seniors age they have trouble sleeping—particularly if they have a night light that’s constantly illuminated.
“Putting lights into toe-kicks in the vanity cabinets of bathrooms adds wayfinding, and is really low-hanging fruit,” says Moore.
One of the easiest updates to make, says Tripodi, is installing smart plugs (we’ve tested many) to make task lighting like lamps voice controlled. Smart LED Bulbs are another simple fix to control lamps through Alexa or Google Home.
Enhance natural light with a skylight
You can’t underestimate the value of natural lighting for practicality or mood. Tripodi says that installing a skylight is a relatively easy DIY project or one that is typically inexpensive when using a contractor.
“There are multiple ways to bring that in, whether it’s a large-scale renovation to remove non-load-bearing walls and create an open-concept layout, or simply adding windows,” he explains.
Brightening a space isn’t just down to lights
Surprisingly, a quick lighting idea doesn’t necessarily involve fixtures or wiring, reports Moore. He recommends something as simple as a fresh coat of paint in a cool tone can do the trick.
“As our eyes age, our ability to distinguish cool colors fades faster than warm colors,” he says. “Adding blue light, or cool light, throughout seniors’ houses is going to increase the contrast they see between objects and make it easier to walk around safely.”
Moore also recommends creating color contrasts between rooms—especially if the floors are different levels—or where walls meet in a corner, like hallways and stairs. Stairs with dark treads and white risers, or buying a table with a dark top and white sides, is also helpful to create that contrast for seniors.
Walkways and entrances need light, too
While it makes sense to focus on high-traffic areas first (usually the inside of the house), homeowners shouldn’t forget about the exterior, either.
“Outdoor lighting is especially important along the walkways your parents use to get from the driveway to the entrance of their house at night,” says Tripoldi.
However, while solar lights can be inexpensive and easy to install (with no wires that require digging), they can be less durable and brilliant than low-voltage LED systems.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.