Dr. Asha Hegde of Texas State University made a presentation to the residents of Springtown Villa last month to share preliminary results of a groundbreaking study to investigate the effects of lighting upon elderly persons living in assisted housing. The study took place over a two month period last fall. Hegde said safety and health was the focus of the study. She summarized the elements of the study itself, which included questionnaires on personal habits, light meters to measure actual lighting levels in the apartments, and the ActiWatch worn by the study participants that measured certain vital signs. Hedge noted that there were different lighting scenarios in various apartments. She said they found that some people thought the installed lights were too bright so they did not use them. Many kept curtains and blinds closed during the day to save on utility costs and spent a lot of their day in relative darkness, which disrupts their wake/sleep cycles.
The researchers are still analyzing the data from the watches and a final report on the study will be provided to the management of the Housing Authority. In the meantime, Hedge had several recommendations. These included things like not using bright lights at night, not falling asleep with the TV on, having table lamps with warm colors, and sleeping in total darkness, with the exception of night lights for safety. She recommended keeping a regular schedule and having visual contrast in their furniture to make it easy to see potential tripping hazards. She also said people should get up and go for a walk in the morning. She suggested having curtains and blinds open during the day to bring in as much natural light as possible. Some residents said that this puts a glare on the TV screen. Hegde suggested bringing in “personal space counselors.”
Finally, Hegde said that this study has implications for the future and that more research will be needed but it may be used to change lighting codes to improve health outcomes. Residents said they liked the idea of being able to control light levels. Resident comments will be incorporated into the final report. In the meantime, see this: The Interconnection of Light, Vision, Safety, Circadian Rhythms and Sleep