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Simple Aging in Place Adjustments to Help Older Adults with Sight Loss

Oct 19 2020

by Jess Walter 

Almost 90 percent of older adults want to stay in their homes as they get older. However, by the age of 65, around one in three people experience some form of vision-impairing eye ailment, says the American Academy of Family Physicians. While many older adults prefer to age in their apartments and to lead an independent life, the loss of vision can make this dream seem impossible. Losing their vision can present a host of new hazards and risks for older adults living on their own. To help them remain safe and retain their independence in their home, here is a quick guide on helpful home adjustments you can make.

Get the Right Lighting in Place

One of the best ways you can help older adults with vision impairment or poor eyesight is to ensure there is optimal lighting in their homes. For many with eye disorders, their eyes tend to need more light to see at the same level it used to. For the lightbulbs in the home, swap for higher wattage and an LED bulb. You also want to aim for soft lighting, or options with less contrast. Finally, in addition to ambient lighting around the home, consider placing task lighting in strategic places, such as the living room for reading or kitchen counters for prepping food.

Remove Clutter and Improve Home Organization

Many older adults tend to accumulate clutter as a part of a memento of their lives so far. However, clutter is also a safety hazard for older adults, particularly those with declining vision. A cluttered home reduces mobility as they have to navigate around more items to move around. This also leads to an increased chance of falling. Currently, one in four older adults experience falls every year. 

A great way to start decluttering is to adopt the four-box method. By separating everything into a keep, toss, donate/sell and, storage pile you can help your elderly loved one get rid of clutter and decide what sentimental items they want to hold onto. Another great home organization tip for vision-impaired older adults is to reorganize their kitchen and living cabinets. Place their most used items like medication, toiletries and eyeglasses on lower and easily found shelves or drawers.

The same can be done for their closets and regularly needed cleaning supplies like glasses cleaning solutions and microfiber cloths. Regular cleaning of eyewear is essential for older adults, since frames can be contaminated by viruses for up to four days. Decluttering can also improve sleep quality and maintain better mental health. 

Invest in Nightlights to Prevent Night Falls and Blindness

As a result of declining vision, older adults are more vulnerable to night blindness. Navigating in the dark for nightly bathroom trips or even heading up the stairs to go to sleep can prove to be extremely dangerous for older adults with failing eyesight. Diminished night vision is common in older adults, and can be caused by changes in the retina, presbyopia or smaller pupils. To counteract this, install plug-in nightlights around the home, including stairways and between the bedroom and bathroom. 

Many plug-in nightlight options cost less than $20 and can easily be found in homeware stores across the country. You can also replace the light switch plates in the home with a glow in the dark light switch plate. This will make it easier for older adults to see them in the night and reduces the risk of missteps and falls.

Finally, while these adjustments can significantly improve the quality of life for many visually impaired adults who want to age in place at home, they may not always be suitable. In some cases, it may be safer for your elderly loved one to get professional help to cope with their sight loss. In the end, it comes down to keeping them safe and happy.