Terry McGowan, director of engineering for the ALA, says, "Older eyes experience two important changes."
First, the amount of light required to sustain visual performance increases with age. Research shows that a 60-year-old needs twice as much light as a 30-year-old.
Second, with time, human eyes become more sensitive to glare. This can seem like a bit of a Catch-22, as more light can often result in increased glare. That's what makes the quality of light more important as you grow older.
With many baby boomers reaching their mid-60s, homeowners should consider user age as a factor in their home lighting design. It is easy to enhance the visual performance and enjoyment for baby boomers and older folks with a few simple lighting adjustments:
* Turn on one or two table lamps while watching TV to reduce the contrast between the bright screen and the surrounding darkness.
* Use a torchiere for uplighting as well as downward illumination for versatility. Look for a fixture with a separate task light attached or one with a glass bowl at the top to shine some light downward.
* Have a task light that can be directed or pivoted.
In addition to providing sufficient light, proper lighting design is essential to human health.
"As people get older, it isn't just the amount of light, it is also the color of the light and when it is applied, that is key to regulating things such as circadian rhythm and REM sleep cycles," says McGowan.
Growing research indicates that light can impact human health in numerous ways, including susceptibility to Alzheimer's disease. The question is: What exactly can aging people do to help their eyes and health?
The answer, according to McGowan, is to enjoy bright days and dark nights. "If you're older and don't sleep very well, expose yourself to bright light, such as daylight, early in the morning ... a walk outside will do it ... and sleep in a dark room at night. That will do everything required to regulate your circadian rhythm," says McGowan.