Good lighting is important for performing tasks like reading or sewing; it also creates a safer environment and helps to prevent accidents. As you age, the amount of light entering the eye is reduced, causing a reduction in visual acuity, contrast and color intensity. The type of lighting and its intensity, color and direction all affect an individuals visual performance.
Too much OR too little light can be a problem for a person with low vision but each person responds differently. Test different kinds and levels of lighting to determine what is most comfortable for you. There are several kinds of lighting, listed in order of the most useful for people with impaired sight:
- Full spectrum lighting is the closest to natural sunlight and the most comfortable for people with most visual pathologies. However, it is not as readily available. Full spectrum bulbs are best when used in swing-arm lamps that can direct the lighting onto the task. The OH light is an example of this type of bulb.
- Incandescent lighting provides a yellower, more direct light that is good for close work, like sewing or reading. It is the most common form of light bulb, frequently used in desk or table lamps. The Westinghouse Eye Saver bulb is this type, with a unique feature that directs more of the light on to your work.
- Halogen lighting produces the brightest and whitest light. For some people with impaired sight, it can enhance contrast between print and background, but for others they generate too much glare. It also generates a lot of heat.
- Fluorescent lighting disperses a blue-white light evenly and without shadows over a wide area. Because it generates a lot of light without using a lot of electricity, it is the type of lighting most often used in public places, such as supermarkets or offices. But it can create increased glare.
Helpful Hints for Good Lighting and Vision:
- Put the light directly where it is needed. Use small lamps that swivel and can be raised or lowered to help direct the light.
- Direct the light over the shoulder of the eye with the best visual acuity or use lampshades that direct light onto a specific area rather than out into the room.
- Wire your overhead fixtures to a dimmer switch in order to increase the amount of light in a room.
- Position lamps near frequently used appliances. Under-cabinet lighting provides task lighting in the kitchen or work areas.
- Provide extra lighting in stairs and hallways where it can be difficult to move around.
- Pay attention to lighting access and control, making sure that switches are located where they can easily be found. Contrast switchplates with the wall color or use switchplates that contain small lights. Consider preset light timers for difficult areas.
Sensitivity to Glare
Many people experience an increased sensitivity to glare as they age. Glare can be caused by sunlight, other lighting sources, and reflections from household sources. Drapes or blinds reduce sunlight coming in through windows. Polarized glass or tinted shades will eliminate glare. If possible, choose furnishings with a flat or matte finish. Cover shiny surfaces with a cloth, blotter or construction paper. Carpet and nonslip floor finishes diffuse light to reduce glare. Optometrists can prescribe filters in glasses to reduce problems with glare.