Strategic and Consistent: Optimal Lighting for Seniors Aging in Place

Accessibility and freedom of movement are always core concerns for seniors who wish to age in place and do so safely. But proper and sufficient lighting is necessary for unobstructed access to all parts of the home. Research has shown that a 60-year-old needs three times more light than a 20-year-old in order to see well enough to move around safely.

But what kind of lighting is needed, where should it be installed, and what parts of the home should it illuminate the most? There’s more to it than simply filling the entire space; a more nuanced approach is required for an older adult to see well enough to age in place.

Natural light

The sun is generally the best source of lighting; it’s healthy and provides an abundant source of efficient light. Your first decision should be to alter any window treatments that block the flow of natural light. Remember that older adults benefit significantly from exposure to natural light, which has a palpable effect on mood and one’s sense of well-being.

Use artificial light consistently

Unfortunately, the sun alone can’t provide a comprehensive solution. The less seniors have to adapt to different kinds and levels of light, the less likely they are to have trouble seeing where they’re going and spotting potential obstacles. Consistent lighting from room to room is usually the best option, which is why smart lighting technology can be so helpful to older adults. Programmable lighting is a convenient and safe way to ensure consistent light transitions from room to room, and can be managed through a smartphone app.

Smart technology can also adjust lighting automatically when it senses someone has entered or left a room. This is an important consideration for the safety of seniors who, for example, may have trouble getting to the bathroom at night and manipulating light controls on their own. You’ll get the best and safest results by leaving it to a lighting professional to handle the installation and upkeep of such technology, as well as any other electrical repairs.

Ambient lighting

Ambient lighting, which can be maximized with LED or compact fluorescent bulbs, should be emphasized in rooms where it’s necessary to use fine motor skills, such as the kitchen or bathroom. This form of lighting helps protect seniors from the glare of light that’s too bright, and makes it easier for their eyes to differentiate between colors. Ambient lighting is also a softer, more relaxed, and soothing form of light, which is important for seniors who may suffer from anxiety or be in the early stages of dementia. Make sure that all exposed bulbs are covered with shades to prevent glare.


Use LED bulbs in an older adult’s bedroom, preferably with lighting that can be controlled automatically by sensor. Install additional ones along darkened hallways at nighttime to prevent falls. Even adding a lamp near the doorway or one controlled by a nearby wall switch can help ensure safety.


Task-oriented lighting (glare-free light, preferably ambient) should be installed above the stove and counter space. A light with a hand-controlled dimmer switch should be placed above the kitchen or dining room table.

A discriminating use of light can help a senior age in place safely and happily. Strategically installing natural, ambient, and situational lighting can help an older adult safely navigate darkened rooms and complete tasks, such as medication management and food preparation. Proper lighting also provides a confidence boost by helping seniors maintain self-reliance.

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Article by: Claire Wentz

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