One of the imperatives to designing homes for a 55-plus buyer is light. As we age, the lens of our eyes thickens and can get cloudy. This results in diminished eyesight with obvious and not-so-obvious side effects.

The first symptom of diminishing eyesight is your arms get shorter, or so it seems. The aging eye’s ability to focus up close is the first noticeable symptom. Small print becomes harder to read and eventually “readers” (magnifying glasses) are needed—a good reason to avoid using small print on your brochures.

In addition, the amount of light passing through the lens diminishes as well. This is more gradual and less noticeable. While the drop in light may not be as apparent to the aging adult as their ability to focus up close, the effects cannot be ignored. By age 60, six times as much light is needed compared with a 20 year old.

Housing Design Matters Well-Lit Transom

That is why lighting—both natural and artificial—is so important to the NEXTadventure buyer profile. In the first of a two part series, we will explore how both architecture and interior design can address this condition and add solutions to help overcome the problem.

The first step? Bring on the lights and add windows. Strategic placement of windows is vital. Starting at the front door, add a transom above the door to bring light into the foyer without compromising privacy or security. The view from the foyer should be toward natural light and windows. Interior spaces can borrow light from adjacent rooms. For example, a well-placed window that lines up with a door will allow light to spill into the adjacent hallway or room.

In the master bath, it is wise to add a makeup vanity area. But keep in mind, if the mirror is 2 feet away, it is useless for this task. Instead, most 55-plus find they need an illuminated magnifying mirror to apply makeup, so don’t forget an outlet for this. If the vanity area is on an outside wall, you could even place a window behind the makeup mirror for more light.

As for artificial lighting, think in terms of task lighting, ambient lighting, and wayfinding lighting. Recessed can lights in the kitchen work well for task lights. Under and over cabinet lights are a great way to add ambient lighting. Toe-kick lighting under the bath cabinets brings wayfinding lighting to the bathroom. And if the toilet is in a separate room, add a simple night light. You can even buy toilets with night lights built in. Lighted switches are also helpful. And don’t forget to add step and hall lights to the entry from the garage. Nothing is worse than coming home at night to a pitch-black house, but it’s even worse (bordering on dangerous) for those with diminishing eyesight.

There is so much more to what thoughtful lighting can do for a homeowner. Stay tuned for part 2 of the series to learn more about lighting, light placement, and color for the 55-plus buyer.

Make plans now to see how lighting plays a role in the NEXTadventure home at the International Builders' Show.