Go Outdoors for Light

I have just read an article by Jack Carman, on “From Inside Out: Gardens Meet Unmet Needs”,  in this article he talks about the value of gardens to improve the quality of life for elders, in that it helps with appetite, sleep, Vitamin D absorption, balance, circadian rhythm and more health benefits.

 I appreciate this article as I love to garden, the sense of contentment and joy I receive from being out side and having my hands in the dirt and seeing plants grow is hard to replicate in any other experience.  I also enjoy the fresh air, the sound of birds and the warmth of the sun.  So this is no surprise to me that gardening can enhance and improve the lives of all of us as we age.

The majority of these benefits come from the experience of being outside and it is free.  Even on a cloudy day there is light that our eyes take in as well as is absorbed through any exposed skin.  These outdoor light levels are rarely available indoors in either a home or care community.

Quality of life is improved as exposure to the outdoors increases, unfortunately not everyone has access, for seniors who are dealing with mobility issues, loss of vision, or are living in a home in which accessibility to the outside is difficult.  Senios may live in a care community that doesn’t offer outside areas or the assistance to enjoy ones that are present.  These conditions can limit the ability to move inside and out.  This is something that must be considered and once the importance of being outside is recognized hopefully obstacles can be addressed.

Being outside for as little as 20 minutes a day can have a direct impact on some of the issues that can accompany the aging process, falls and broken bones, loss of appetite.  Having access to the natural light cycle can help with sleep, a staggering 80% of senior’s report problems with their sleep patterns.  Not only do gardens have the ability to meet unmet needs, sitting outside can help with some of these needs as well.

Home Lighting for "Aging In Place"

More than 90% of the population age 65 and over say that they want to stay in their homes as they age.  Statistics are showing that this is becoming more and more common and is referred to as, “Aging in Place”.    Another statistic is that the home you are living in at 60 is most likely the one you will stay in.  When you consider that most of the homes people are living in were built in the 50's, 60’s and 70’s with very little consideration for someone to successfully age in this space.  It is understandable that there can be numerous things to look at to determine how a home can meet the current needs and those in the future.  The impact of lighting as we age, in my opinion is not given enough consideration.

Many homes that people are living in have low ceilings and few windows which can create even darker inside spaces.  Heavy draperies, overgrown shrubbery, dirty windows all decrease the natural light that can come into a home.  Isolation, depression, loss of appetite, sleep problems, falls, lack of Vitamin D synthesis, broken bones, sleep issues, safety and so many more issues can be influenced by lack of appropriate lighting.

Light cords and extension cords are a fall risk, as well as the task of changing out a light bulb.  Inadequate lighting for tasks in the kitchen and in bathrooms can cause injuries.  Lack of contrast on steps may result in missed steps.  Inadequate or poorly aimed exterior lighting can result in shadows and the inability to clearly see someone at the door.  There are also many activities that people look forward to enjoying as they age, crafts, puzzles, reading, sewing, the list goes on.  These all require appropriate lighting to be enjoyed.

I hope that the importance of adequate and appropriate lighting will be considered as important as other home modifications that are made to ensure successful Aging in Place.