Just what the doctor ordered – lighting prescriptions

Lighting prescriptions are being developed to help visually impaired people.

Lighting prescriptions offering advice on how best to light visually impaired people’s homes are being offered in New Zealand.

The Otago Polytechnic School of Occupational Therapy in the south of New Zealand has been awarded $15,000 to help develop the prescriptions for fifty elderly Otago residents.

‘Most elderly people are sent home from their ophthalmologist with the message that there is nothing that can be done about failing vision, but there are many small things that can make a real difference to how people live,’ commented Otago Polytechnic occupational therapy principal lecturer Mary Butler, who is responsible for the project.

Students at the school have volunteered to measure the light levels in residential homes using a Lux IQ light meter.

Using the results of the tests, the students will then be able to prescribe the correct lighting.

‘Most people are sent home from their ophthalmologist with the message that there is nothing that can be done about failing vision, but there are many small things that can make a real difference to how people live.’  

Mary Butler - Otago Polytechnic occupational therapy principal lecturer 

The pupils will also recommend the best light intensity and the best colour of light required to mitigate the effects of each person’s visual impairment.

It is a well know fact that someone in their sixties requires three times more light as someone in their twenties, but this is not always recognised. Aside from helping to deal with disabilities, lighting can also help to maintain the body's interior circadian rhythms, which in turn can help to improve health.

These are facts that should be given even greater weight when considering the lighting in the home of someone with a disability.

 ‘A range of bulbs and task lighting are available from big hardware stores, so there’s ready access to these solutions,’ Butler concluded.

The project is being funded by Otago Science Into Action, a partnership group involving Ngai Tahu, the Otago Museum, New Zealand International Science Festival, University of Otago and Otago Polytechnic.

  • You can find out more about how light can improve health at this year's LuxLive. The exhibition will take place in London on Wednesday 23 November and Thursday 24 November 2016. You can find out more by clicking here.