Aged Care Facilities: Deteriorating Eyesight & Common environmental issues

As the need to cater to our aging population grows,
it has become increasingly apparent that interior space and lighting is extremely important to the health and well-being of the residents in aged care facilities. Elements such as decreased mobility and eyesight in the residents, determine that special care must be taken to ensure that environments are safe, comfortable and therapeutic.

As the human eye ages, a variety of issues begin to arise that negatively affect vision.
The lens of the eye starts to yellow, loses elasticity and begins to harden; while the pupil becomes smaller and less responsive to variations of light. The 3 common causes of vision loss are age-related Macular Degeneration (progressive retinal damage), Glaucoma (increasing pressure in the eyes causing nerve damage) and Cataracts (a clouding of the lens due to a protein build-up).

1. Directional lighting techniques create shadows (or sharp transitions between light and dark) which can appear to be physical objects/ changes in the environment, resulting in falls.
2. As eyes deteriorate, they may need up to four times more light for task orientated activities such as reading.
3. Dark ceilings can feel oppressive, heavy and restrictive; this negatively impacts their emotional and psychological wellbeing.
4. Aging eyes are very sensitive to glare. As the pupils become smaller and less responsive to variations in light, bright points of light and make them unsure of their environment- this is known as disability glare.
5. Harsh, shadow heavy lighting can change the appearance of faces, which can be moderately frightening to some residents (esp. those with dementia).
6. The occurrence of disrupted sleep/wake cycles in residents who don’t get proper access to daylight. This has to do with elements such as colour temperature and lux levels.
7. Aging eyes can take longer to adjust between light and dark, meaning that even light levels must be employed in rooms; and step-up/ step-down lighting used in ‘transitional areas’ (i.e. foyer from inside to outside).
8. There is often not enough lighting at ground level,
particularly beside beds.
This can cause uncertainty when residents get in and out of bed; thereby increasing the risk of falls.