An important part of caring for the vision needs of older adults is paying attention to lighting. An older eye needs three times more light than a younger eye. For example, if a 19 year-old needs a 60 watt light bulb, a 60 year-old needs 180 watts of light. I’m not even sure that a light bulb that powerful is commonly available. And as we age, we need even more light. An 80 year old person may need 300 watts of light.
Older adults need more light because the amount of light that reaches the retina at the back of their eyes is only one quarter of what it is for younger eyes. That’s why it is critical to emphasize the use of proper lighting. As people age, few of them adjust the lighting in their homes, having often lived in the same home for decades. The home and the lighting within it remains the same as the occupants age and require more light for quality vision.
Lighting is often the reason why low vision patients do very well in the office with controlled conditions and optimal lighting. When they get home with their new low vision device, they can’t read as well as they did in the clinic. The reason is often poor lighting in their home environment. In fact, with some older patients, their vision will improve more with better lighting than with new glasses.
However, glasses can make a difference. Anti-reflective lenses are a must for older eye. More light passes through an anti-reflective lens than a regular lens, that means more light will reach the retinal of the older eye, resulting in better quality vision.