When designing our home, we often make color selections based off personal preferences with little concern as to how these colors may affect visibility.
Color Vision Fades with Age
Growing up, I was always told “don’t get old,” as if I had any control to stop my birthday cakes from having to hold more candles. Seemingly, this “advice” came as a direct response from some sort of ache, pain or not being able to read a menu without glasses anymore.
Glasses. This is probably the first association we have when thinking about getting older. But, did you know that besides poorer eyesight that the way we see color can also change as we age? In many cases, diminishing eyesight also includes a difference in the way we perceive colors.
What is Color Vision?
As we age, many lose the ability to clearly distinguish certain colors. Losses typically start around the age of 70 and worsen with time. With aging comes a natural yellowing of the eyes’ lenses, which consequently makes everything appear as if you are looking through a yellow filter. Eye diseases such as cataracts (damage to the optic nerve due to excessive pressure inside the eye) or macular degeneration (retards the visual acuity of the retina) can cause such a yellowing, but so can just the natural aging process.
The yellow haze caused by protein deposits on the eyes disrupts a person’s “blue-yellow” vision (conversely, inherited color blindness affects reds and greens). This yellow filter will prevent people from being able to distinguish blue from purple or yellow from green. Also, all colors generally appear paler. Approximately 45% of people in their mid-70s are affected by color vision problems with 66% being affected when in their mid-90s.
Okay, so it’s just color, right? No big deal? Unfortunately, color deficiency can have great effect on one’s safety. With reduced color vision, a person may have trouble seeing everyday objects, such as the stairs, which could increase their risk of falling.
With reduced color vision, suddenly the ability to correctly estimate the distance between each stair is blurred. Reduced color contrasts may make it more difficult to notice or navigate your home as tripping hazards may go unnoticed. Handrails and door knobs may be harder to find. This has a large impact on the ability to live at home safely and independently. Fortunately, there are some precautions that can be taken.
Eliminate Tripping Hazards
For the sake of safety, remove clutter and put away things after you use them. Ensure all members of the home know to clean up after themselves, including pushing in chairs and closing cabinet doors. While it may be easy to assume that since the person is not blind, they should be able to notice and avoid objects that are as large as a chair or door, color deficiency affects the ability to differentiate colors and contrast. A wooden chair or cabinet door may easily blend in with the wooden floor or wooden cabinets surrounding it.
Bright light will help anyone get around more easily. Adding lamps near doorways and ensuring staircases are well-lit are easy fixes that will help everyone in the family see and function better. Make sure the lighting is consistent in all rooms of the house, so there are fewer shadows and dangerous bright spots are eliminated. Also, glare can be an issue for those with reduced color vision. Diffuse light by adding blinds to windows or diffuse the light with a lamp shade or lens cover. You can install a dimmer to set the perfect lighting level needed to see. Ensure light switches are easy to locate by marking them with fluorescent tape. Today, you can find remote controlled lights, so you can turn them on from your bedside or smart lighting allows you to control from a mobile phone or tablet. How helpful is that?
Create Color Contrasts
As aforementioned, color contrasts can make all the difference in the ability to see – or not see – an object. When a light-colored object is placed on a similarly light-colored background (think white light switch on a white wall), the two objects blend in. Similarly, dark-colored objects on a dark-colored background (think dark throw rug on a dark floor) are also hard to spot. Simple fixes can be outlining objects with fluorescent tape or swap out with a contrasting color; install door knobs that contrast in color with the door for easier locating. Avoid patterns when possible. Stripes or plaids can be visually confusing and may make it hard to identify the edge of a seat or step. Edge each step with white tape so the user knows exactly where the edge is to avoid a catastrophic fall.
Don’t make daily chores a hide-and-seek game. Keep items together that you typically use together. However, be sure to label your items with a contrasting color so it can be read!
Accessorize with Accessibility Products
If these precautions aren’t enough, there are always a slue of accessibility products to make your everyday life easier. For example, stairlifts are a great way to overcome the obstacle of going up and down the stairs safely. When choosing your stairlift, you can even choose your seat and track color so you can further implement color contrast.
Want to learn more? Speak to one of our mobility experts today! Call 888-637-8155 or request a callback.
Sources: https://www.webmd.com/healthy-aging/news/20140318/color-vision-tends-to-fade-with-age-study#1, https://www.aoa.org/patients-and-public/eye-and-vision-problems/glossary-of-eye-and-vision-conditions/color-deficiency, http://www.afb.org/info/living-with-vision-loss/adapting-your-home/23, https://blog.1000bulbs.com/home/how-to-minimize-glare-and-eye-strain