Home Modifications to Support Decreased Vision
As an individual ages, their vision worsens due to typical aging processes and age-related vision disorders (Perlmutter et al., 2013). One common age-related disease is known as macular degeneration. According to Young (2012), macular degeneration is the leading cause of visual impairments and blindness among older adults over 65. This diagnosis affects more than 1.7 million individuals in the United States and continues to grow due to the aging population. The lighting within the home can play a vital factor concerning vision.
1. Increase Lighting
Perlmutter et al. (2013) found that higher lighting levels allowed individuals to see and recognize more objects in a simulated living room. Increasing the lighting can reduce potential falls. Light levels that are not equal can also cause disturbance due to the need for an individual’s eyes having to adjust to the lighting throughout the environment. Having the same wattage of lights throughout the home can prevent this from occurring. Automatic lights and extra light switches at each end of the stairway are also minor changes applied to an environment to elude injuries. According to Copolillo and Ivanoff (2011), proper placement of lighting within the home can be used to guide the individual throughout and alert a person of the floor change. Other considerations to increase lighting include adjustable brightness settings, under-the-counter lights, using a table or floor lamp and changing the light wattage or lamp shade (Copolillo & Ivanoff, 2011; Perlmutter et al., 2013).
2. Prevention of Glares
Glares from the light can block the individual’s vision, which leads to safety concerns. Several options such as matte style paints, unpolished tiles, shades, and blinds can prevent glares. For individuals who wear glasses, an anti-reflective coating can be added for glare prevention. Be mindful of the placement of picture frames and mirrors so light does not reflect off of them and cause glares (Young, 2012).
Consider installing non-patterned flooring, especially on steps and stairs, to emphasize the wall and floor location. If an item drops on the floor, it will be easier to locate where the object is. Flooring should also be a different color from the walls within the rooms. If the flooring or wall color cannot be separate colors, installing or painting the baseboard of a different color will help distinguish the end of the floor and where the wall starts.
4. Color Contrast
Individuals who have low vision may also have decreased color perception. Therefore, color contrasting becomes essential. Color contrasting may include having a different colored floor from countertops or cabinets. This allows increased ability to be aware of where the cabinet or countertop starts to prevent injuries. Bright colors such as red, yellow, and orange are usually the best to locate rather than pastel colors. It would be best if you avoided several color groups used together in a room. The combination of colors such as navy blue, brown, and black makes it difficult to distinguish between them. The colors blue, green, and purple are also challenging to differentiate. Last, the colors pink, yellow, and pale green are also not the best color choices to use together.
Color contrasting can indicate a change in levels, such as the edge of a step or a different surface type and the transition of hardwood to carpet flooring. If your wall is dark, consider having light-colored outlets or switch plates and vise versa. Light-colored objects placed against darker backgrounds will increase contrast. Avoid patterns such as busy prints and stripes due to possible confusion locating items. Simple and easy ways to make these adjustments are to use bright tape to mark the edges of doors, steps, and cabinets. If the chair is the same color as the wall, placing a colored blanket over the chair will provide color contrast to locate the chair. Other considerations include installing baseboards that are the opposite color of the wall, avoiding clear glass cups, and contrasting the placemat and dinner plate for increased ability to see the edges of a plate (Duffy, 2020).
A handheld magnifier, screen readers, virtual assistants have been shown to be effective for individuals with low vision (Crossland, Silva, & Macedo, 2014). Apps that are beneficial regarding low vision include: Be My Eyes and Seeing Al. Riazi, Boon, Bridge, and Dain (2012) explained that simplified television remotes and a large print clock are quick adjustments that can allow the individual to be more functional in their home.
Copolillo, A., & Ivanoff, S. D. (2011). Assistive technology and home modification for people with neurovisual deficits. NeuroRehabilitation, 28(3), 211–220. https://doi- org.ezproxy.umary.edu/10.3233/NRE-2011-0650
Crossland, M. D., Silva, R. S. & Macedo, A. F. (2014). Smartphone, tablet computer and e‐ reader use by people with vision impairment. Ophthalmic & Physiological Optics, 34(5). 552– 557. doi: 10.1111/opo.12136
Duffy, M. A. (2020). Contrast and color. Vision Aware. Retrieved from https://visionaware.org/everyday-living/home-modification/contrast-and-color/
Perlmutter, M. S., Bhorade, A., Gordon, M., Hollingsworth, H., Engsberg, J. E., & Baum, M. C. (2013). Home lighting assessment for clients with low vision. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 67, 674–682. http://dx.doi.org/ 10.5014/ajot.2013.006692
Young, D. (2012). Light the way: Providing effective home modifications for clients with low vision. OT Practice, 17(16), 7–12.