How to make lighting more effective for people with dementia

A successful lighting solution is one that is designed to meet the specific needs of older people and those with dementia who suffer with age-related visual loss, as well as having difficulties with balance, orientation and perception. Research has shown that good lighting is essential for their independent living and safety.

Here are some helpful recommendations:

Increase ambient light levels
In the maturing eye, less light reaches the retina. So the general light levels in living environments used by older adults, and in particular people with dementia, should be increased by at least 50% compared to the light levels required for a younger person. In general, ambient light levels should be at least 300 lux.

Increase task area light levels
An older person with dementia requires three times more light in task areas to see fine detail (e.g., reading prescription labels) or low contrast objects (e.g. black thread on blue cloth). Light levels on the actual task should be at least 1000 lux.

Minimize glare
Just as more light is required for a person with dementia to see well, care should be taken to avoid glare. Glare is experienced when light sources or bright reflections in the field of view impair vision, or are simply uncomfortable.

Increase contrast
Because contrast sensitivity is reduced with age and especially for people with dementia, the visibility of important objects, such as stair edges, curbs, ramps, or doorways, can be greatly improved by increasing their contrast with paint or similar techniques.

Balance illuminance levels
Because the visual system of an older person with dementia cannot completely adapt to dim conditions, illuminance levels in transitional spaces, such as hallways and entrance foyers, should be balanced with those of the adjacent spaces.

Improve color perception
Colour discrimination is poorer for older adults and especially for people with dementia. High illuminance levels and high-quality fluorescent lamps, rather than conventional incandescent lamps, will help the older adult to see colour more clearly.

Ways to create a safe and secure area

Preventing accidents
Lighting is an essential aspect in terms of safety for the older adult. Good lighting allows unrestricted mobility, aids orientation and helps them to perform their activities safely.

Uncertainty and anxiety
Poorly lit areas, dark shadows or reflections are often the cause of confusion and uncertainty. Adequate lighting that’s glare free and casts few shadows increase their spatial perception.

Staying active
Good lighting promotes mental and physical well-being, it helps them to participate in activities such as mobility, management of their cognitive tasks, reading and performing hobbies and crafts.

Find out more about why older people need more light >>