Study shows benefits of better lighting for the visually impaired

Brighter lighting improves quality of life for the elderly and can reduce the number of falls, according to a study commissioned the Thomas Pocklington Trust, a charity for blind and partially sighted people.

The study looked into the needs of nine visually impaired people. It found evidence that, after lighting was improved at their homes, their standard of living was raised.

Adaptations were made in their homes, with particular attention paid to the kitchen, where all nine homes were altered. Lighting was improved by installing fluorescent strip lighting, with triple tubes replacing single or double tubes to increase the light levels. In some of the homes, spotlights were added to focus light on specific problem areas, such as the cooker.

Sarah Buchannan, research director at Thomas Pocklington Trust, believes the research is significant. ‘Our research into lighting continues to show dramatic improvements for older people’s independence and quality of life,’ she said. ‘But we believe the costs of care and support, particularly following falls, might also be cut if older people’s lighting was improved.’

However, a review by the University of Cambridge found a substantial lack of data on falls and lighting. It called for more research to establish the wider value of improving lighting for older people, to see whether taxpayer money could be saved if improved lighting reduced the risk of falls.

The study found that currently available data contains too many uncertainties and assumptions to make a calculation about the savings for the NHS if lighting in the homes of elderly people were improved.

Buchannan stressed the importance of lighting knowledge, saying that retail customers have very little awareness of the vast range of products available. 'There is so much information, and people can be nervous about electrical products. There is a real gap in getting people aware of what works. LEDs are not visible enough in the market,' she said.