As we grow older, changes occur in the eye, the amount of light that reaches the retina is reduced making it more difficult to see and perform daily tasks. Light reaching the retina also synchronizes our circadian rhythms to the 24-hour light/dark cycle, it is also known as the non-visual system. The circadian system requires more light for stimulation than the visual system.
Circadian disruption can occur when light levels in most people’s homes and residential care homes are not high enough or set to the correct colour temperature to activate the circadian system.
The disruption to the circadian rhythm can cause changes in sleep patterns in older adults and becomes more prevalent in people with dementia and Alzheimer’s. It can cause confusion in their daily routine, reduce their alertness and activity levels, increases the frequent of daytime napping. Alteration in their mood can often lead to agitation, anxiety and depression which are usually exacerbated in people with dementia.
Poor sleep quality and falls are two of the main problems experienced by the elderly and in particular people with dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Research evidence has clearly indicated that the correct quantity and quality of light reaching the retina has positive biological effects on older adults, and people with dementia.
More light is needed for the older adult to maintain their visual and non-visual functions.
Considering the lighting needs of older adults and people with dementia we are challenged to create healthy living environments for them. An innovative, scientifically supported approach to lighting design will enhance their visual, perceptual and biological needs and is the solution to keep people with dementia at home independently for longer, as well as improve their quality of life.