Vision and Lighting Issues for Seniors

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You will find ways in which lighting is beneficial from daily tasks to their mental well being. We can help improve lighting in spaces, that will help those who do struggle with vision loss. Finding the best solutions for way-finding, encouraging activities, and task oriented lighting. Seniors across the world are vastly becoming and growing into a large portion on our population. Those of age 65 and older made up 3 million to 33 million between 1900 and 1994. It is expected that that number could potentially reach 72 million in 2030, which will constitute 20% of our population. This number is going to continue to increase as we are now looking at our baby boomers generation coming up. With this knowledge we know that the housing for seniors is going to need to increase, and in that many of them are going to need updates. As we are looking to create spaces that are ADA compliant, we need to renovate those building that already exist to meet these. In this day and age we are advanced in technology, we are coming to find many new studies provide us with information that helps us to better living facilities for seniors.

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As technology has advanced, our life expectancy is increasing and people are not only healthier, but living longer. With this we need to consider where seniors are living, and think of the ways we can better increase quality of life while living in a assisted home facility. With age our bodies begin to deteriorate in many ways, one that can majorly affect our wellbeing has to do with our vision. Our vision can change in many ways. Not only affecting what we can or can not see, but also affecting the way we process things such as: movement, light, and change in flooring material/surfaces. We also have been able to find research on the ways in which we need light. We are now aware of the benefits light can have and more specifically how different types of light can affect us negatively and positively. Using light to promote wellbeing, we can influence sleep patterns, which has become very beneficial, specifically in those struggling with depression, and sleep disorders.

As the eye develops there are many ways it changes as we get older. Some of the more common factors we see is the yellowing of the pigmentation in the lens, the diameter of the pupil decreases, and the way in which our ocular media absorbs and scatters the lights increase. The lens and iris lose their flexibility as we age, the retina isn’t able to process as much light, which causes the need for increased light levels. We also commonly see pathological transformations, which leads to macular degeneration, cataracts and glaucoma, we also see many suffer from retinopathy. Macular degeneration occurs when changes happen in the macula, it decreases central vision, making things right straight in front difficult to see. This is the leading cause to vision loss. Glaucoma is diagnosed when fluid increases causing pressure in the eye, damaging the nerve. This is known to lead to blindness, and is something that can be managed. It begins with peripheral vision decreasing, leading to vision in the center to decreases. Cataracts occur when the lense begin to become opaque or cloudy. This can occur in just a portion of the eye or a large part, creating very blurred vision.

While many often suffer from one of these, many suffer from more than one of these ophthalmological issues. These vision problems lead to many difficulties when we see the daily performance decrease by elders affected by these. We noticed that these reduce visibility in their sensitivity to contrast, its more difficult to see in the dark, they adapt to light changes poorly, they lose field of vision, and their visual acuity decreases. Since there is a decrease in the way our eye allows light in ,there needs to be increased levels of light. At age 65 they need 2.5 times more contrast in order to see as adequately, like those of a 20 year old. These are some of the main things that we need to find contrast in, in order to have the best identification. They need their navigation finders; doors, emergency exit signs, and rooms.

Typical daily movements; light switches, furniture edges, transitions and door handles.As a result, many of these factors that come along with age, they begin to affect many of our daily needs. While examining 8,000 participants that are older than 65, the study examined the relationship between vision issues and disability. They found that those who do struggle with vision impairment are more likely to find they have developmental problems associated with, participating in life events, exercising activities, and other daily activities. Maintaining seniors eyesight allows them to remain active, this helps to prolong life. While staying active they are building muscle, and using they body to stay active. With the loss of eyesight, their “courage” to be active decreases, because they become unsure of themselves, and become more cautious. These are all important to be reminded of and to continually have checked. Incorporating a physical and eye clinic testing to help monitor these issues will help with vision difficulties.

While these are all problems we see causing issues for seniors to deal with daily, there are a few specifically we see an relation to falling. Those who struggle with contrast sensitivity, depth perception, and visual field loss are more likely to fall. Contrast between objects is very important in order for them to identify the space between them and objects. In highlighting the edges it is allowing more clarity so they are able to have more confidence when navigating through rooms. These are most important when identifying steps, curbs, change in flooring, and transition strips. We see these problems often happening in those who have lost vision in both eyes, as their vision decreases, the depth perception loss increases. These all are factors when we are considering a fall risk for patients, but these all can vary due to inadequate lighting. Lighting is known to improve quality of life for those who struggle with low vision issues highlighting and catering to specific needs. It has been found that higher contrast when doing tasks is required, especially for safety, spaces like door frames, where there are transitions are a necessity. After reviewing all of the ways that light and vision together can both negatively affect the wellbeing of life for seniors, there are many ways that we can help improve their daily lives. One of the most important aspects we need to remember when developing our facilities is to make it brighter. Allowing for brighter spaces helps with daily activities. We need to provide task lighting, for things like reading, cooking, and writing.

We also need to provide light for way finding when it is dark. Another way to improve is with increasing the contrast in many situations. Allowing for bright colors around will help them identify location and help them to stay orientated. Also we can create spaces that are conductive to the circumstances of elderly vision. Creating spaces that allow conversation for group settings to take place, avoiding upholstery with patterns that could cause confusion. Allowing technology to play a part in their experience is going to be a very large part of the future. This is because those who are aging will within the next 10-20 years be moving into these facilities which are already technologically advanced. This can allow communication from residents to staff. While the way that light can benefit and help with those who struggle with vision loss is a necessity, there are many other ways light can be beneficial to seniors. There have been many studies that show us different lights and the ways we are exposed to them, can help improve quality of life. There has lighting improvements that we know help increase life; sleep disorders, depression, and dementia. Studies have come to show that white light sources have suppressed the melatonin in our bodies. In order to better understand the ways light affects our daily and nightly wellbeing, we need to understand our 24-hour circadian rhythms. These patterns of the way we function are found in our lower hypothalamus. It helps run the ways in which we need to be awake, and the times we need to sleep, helps with the processing of melatonin, cortisol production, and our body temperature. The ways that light interacts with us tell our hypothalamus, and can cause shifts in our normal patterns. A study has shown, while being conducted in a laboratory setting, that exposure from 2,000 to 10,000 lux, at specified times can enhance the patterns of the sleep wake cycle.

This increased the length of time that seniors were able to stay awake, helped to decrease drowsiness, and decreased depression among the subjects. This is also true with dementia patients. It was identified that blue, high intensity light helped the patients to stay awake during the early afternoon, which therefore helped them sleep through the night. Encouraging and scheduling these patterns can lead to success. It was found that there was a success rate of 70% remission with treatments of 10,000 lx for 30 minutes a day, as well was 2,500 lx for two hours a day. Typically the best way to fight depression naturally is by being outdoors and experiencing natural daylight. Another way is through bright light therapy, using a light box to provide this. The benefits of this can vary as we investigate we know that time of day and the duration can make a difference. We also need to consider the architecture of our spaces. It is so important to their health to allow for as much natural light as possible, with that we need to choose a lot that has great scenic views. With this the lighting and visuals of the environment it is known the number of falls has decreased.There is an important role natural light plays into well being for seniors. While natural light being accessed from indoors is great, it is best to experience it from the outdoors. Daylight and Vitamin D play a crucial role, as it pulls the maximum calcium and encourages muscle function, which is crucial to keeping muscle strength and skeletal integrity. Vitamin D3 is gathered through our skin from exposure of UV-B radiation between 290-315nm wavelengths.

While these are wavelengths that have been linked to skin cancer, it is now found that Vitamin D3 has an effect on the internal organs of oncostatic (anti-cancer). UV-B has trouble passing through glass, making the vitamin D3 unable to reach the skin, so the process does not take place. Because of the way the earth orbits, and its position in our orbital system, there are a few factors that play into the amounts of UV-B radiation that actually is able to reach our bodies. When the sun is less than 60 degrees, there is an insufficient amount of radiation reaching the skin. That is why during the winter months, the sun is not able to reach its highest latitudes, which can lead to depression in many. It was found that while surveying 1,068 patients 32% stated they had only been outdoors less than once a month. Access to the outdoors and natural daylight promotes stronger muscles and bones among the elderly, making them less susceptible to falls. Lighting and vision issues among seniors is a factor in their lives that affects them daily. Promoting wellbeing and finding solutions to these problems is ways that we can better their health. Providing adequate lighting, being aware of the challenges that comes with typical vision disease, and installing this research into facilities will help fix many of the problems we find today.

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