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Outdoor Lighting For Aging In Place

Outdoor lighting is used for both home security and to help keep someone (especially an older person) from tripping and falling and possibly injuring themselves.

It’s no secret that older adults simply need more light than their younger counterparts.

As you age, you need more light to see as well as you used to. Brighter lights in your work area or next to your reading chair will help make reading and other close-up tasks easier.

American Optometric Association

The need for more lighting is true indoors as well as outdoors – but oftentimes – many seniors who are aging in place neglect to optimize their outdoor lighting for a variety of reasons.

  • it’s too costly
  • they don’t go out as much anyway so why bother

The bottom line is that by avoiding adding the extra lighting that would make an outdoor space safer – you (or a senior loved one) may end up spending months recovering from an injury (if you recover at all).

How Much Lighting Do You Need?

More than you probably think you need. The idea is that the areas you are installing lighting should be bright enough for a senior person to see as well as possible.

BUT – there are some issues to consider. Glare and Shadows.

Glare

As we age, our eyes become much more sensitive to glare. The highest rate of increased glare sensitivity occurs after the age of sixty. There are two types of glare: 1) direct glare, bright light from a fixture or bright sunlight streaming into a dimly lit room; and 2) reflected glare, strong light that bounces of a smooth shiny surface. – CenterOfDesign

A majority of older adults will first notice issues with glare while driving. I myself have a very difficult time driving at night due to the glare from oncoming traffic.

Glare can impede your ability to see what’s around you and as a result you could misjudge a step or bump into an object, etc.

Solution To Reduce Glare From Lighting

There are certain types of light bulbs that you can use that can help to reduce the amount of glare that it would produce.

  • Frosted light bulbs can be very useful to reduce glare
  • Some light bulbs have anti-glare coatings
  • Dimmable lights are also another solution
  • Covers on lights to help avoid directly looking at the light bulb
  • Solar lights tend to provide a softer light that may be suitable for some older adults

Shadows

Another factor to consider when installing lighting outdoors are the shadows that it produces. For seniors with dementia or Alzheimer’s – visual perception issues can cause some problems, especially with shadows.

I remember a patient of mine who would not, no matter what, step on a shadow on the floor. To him, it simply looked like a hole and as a result, he would go all the way around it.

This would not normally be a problem if the area around the shadow is flat but if outdoors there tend to be steps or grass or gravel, etc. So walking around a perceived hole can turn into a situation where the person falls and gets injured.

Solution To Dealing With Shadows From Lighting

Lots of lighting will certainly help to reduce shadows that are created by a single light. So placing lights to the right, to the left, in front and in back will all work to reduce most if not all shadows on the ground.

Where To Place Lights Outdoors?

The best places to install outdoor lighting is along every walkway, staircase and living space that you would use during the evening hours.

So, this would include areas such as…

  • doorways
  • driveways
  • mailbox
  • walkways
  • steps
  • railings
  • patios and decks
  • backyard

What Types Of Lights?

The best types of lights will depend on the location of where that light will be installed. For example, a motion sensor light is best used on driveways and the corners of houses for security reasons as well as for lighting.

So let’s go over some of the types of lights that can be used and where the best places would be to use them.

1. Motion Sensor Lights

I love motion sensor lights because they are not ON at all times which is great!

The best places to put motion sensor lights are…

  • doorways
  • driveways
  • the corners of your house

You can install motion sensor lights that are hardwired and powered by electricity or solar lights that require no wiring. Here are some to consider.

Hardwired Motion Sensor Lights For Outdoors

There are a few options of hardwired lights you can consider:

The LEPower 35W LED Security Lights Motion Sensor – at Amazon

The Outdoor Motion Activated Floodlight with Wi-Fi Cam by Ring – at Home Depot

Cascadia 240 Degree 3000-Lumen Bronze Motion Activated Floodlight with Timer – at Lowe’s

The Goodearth Ecolight with 180 Degree LED Motion – at Bed Bath & Beyond

Solar Motion Sensor Lights For Outdoors

Another viable option are solar lights. But note that solar lights will not produce as bright a light as hardwired ones and if you live in a location where you don’t get much sun then you want to make sure to look for “winter solar lights” like the ones listed below:

Luposwiten Solar Motion Sensor Lights with 28 LEDs – at Amazon

Twin Head Solar Motion Lights with 200 LED – at Bed Bath & Beyond

1000 Lumen LED Motion Activated Solar Light – at Lowe’s

900 Lumen 80-LED Solar Motion Pack – at Home Depot

2. Path Lights

tips on using outdoor solar lights

These types of lights, whether they are hardwired or solar – are meant to light a driveway or pathway to illuminate the area to make it safe to walk on.

These lights can be placed on or close to the ground so that they are low – but they can also be placed a bit higher such as on a shepherd hook.

I would however warn against placing them too high.

You do not want the glare of the light to impede yourself or a senior loved one’s vision.

Again, you can install electric lights or solar lights – whatever fits your fancy.

Electric Lights

LED lights like these by hykolity are great because the cover over the bulb keeps the glare down – at Amazon

The Lumbase Luminaria Kit are a fun way to add color and lights – at Home Depot

Kichler Olde Bronze Path Light also has a cover to reduce glare – at Lowe’s

Solar Lights

There are many wonderful designs of solar lights as you can see when you click on these links below. The important thing to remember when choosing solar lights is to choose the ones that are as bright as possible.

Gigalumi Solar Pathway Lights – at Amazon

Modern Bollard Path Light Set – at Home Depot

Portfolio LED Path Light Kit – at Lowe’s

You can also add additional solar lights that are fun and decorative. Although these don’t put out bright lights – when they are added to other solar lights like the ones I listed above they can definitely make the area outdoors brighter.

Check out some of the many fun solar lights here.

3. Step Lights

Adding lights to steps is very important (especially for older adults). The reason is that a person’s visual perception normally declines as they get older and as a result they have difficulty identifying a change in the path.

In other words, they may not be able to “see” that there is a step there and they may end up losing their balance and falling.

So, lighting that area would be the best solution. Here are some outdoor step lights to consider.

Electric

LED Landscape Deck Lights by Hykolity – Amazon

Motion Activated Battery operated light by Light It – Home Depot

Solar

Solar lights for outdoor steps by Xlux – at Amazon

Hampton Bay’s Solar LED Lights – at Home Depot

Portfolio Solar Deck Light – at Lowe’s

What Height Do You Hang Outdoor Lights?

Traditionally, outdoor lights should be hung about 66 to 72 inches above the ground. Of course – this is so that the light is above the person.

The most important factor I would recommend you to consider when installing lights outdoors for a home with senior citizens is to consider the brightness and glare that the light may produce.

For some older adults, it may be better to hang a light lower than their eye level so as to avoid direct contact with the light.

Naturally, a light over a doorway would be important and for these instances I would recommend a soft focused light to again avoid a glaring bright light.

But, as I’ve mentioned earlier, when it comes to adding lights to walkways outdoors, having lights below eye level would work very well.

Was This Article Helpful In Your Quest For Outdoor Lighting For Aging In Place?

I hope that the information in this article was helpful for you. There are so very many different choices of lighting these days for outdoor use.

You can go with full installation of electrical lights, you can use battery powered lights and of course, the plethora of solar lights available today can accomplish all your lighting needs outdoors – as long as you live in an area that can provide enough light to power solar lights.

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