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AARP Home Design
Learn about ways you can make your home safer as you age.

Certified Aging-in-Place Specialists
Find a certified aging-in-place specialist in your area with this tool developed by AARP and the National Association of Home Builders.

Lighting Your Home for Safety

Does your home glow? Beautiful lamps and light fixtures do wonders to spruce things up. More importantly, they illuminate your home as you or your loved one's sight declines. A well-lit home is a safer home. Light not only keeps burglars away, but it can help prevent trips and falls that can cause serious injury. And it’s not just about having enough light; think to spread it throughout your rooms sensibly, without glare or shadows.

A well-lit home is a safer home. Light not only keeps burglars away, but prevents the trips and falls that cause serious injury.

Take an inventory in each room. Here’s what to look for:

Illuminate Your Work Check all work areas—kitchen counter, desk, workbench—as well as garage, basement, and laundry room. In addition to good general lighting, install light sources directly above frequent work spots, such as a cutting board or a laundry table.

  • Mount lights under kitchen cabinets to brighten counter space.
  • Add brighter desk lamps or utility lights, especially where you work with tools or machines; adjustable lamps work well. If you add brighter bulbs to existing lights, stay within wattage limits for safety.

Light the Fine Print It’s hard to relax with a good book or magazine if you have to strain your eyes.

  • Floor lamps, and those with flexible necks, let you point light where you need it.
  • Use lamps with three-way bulbs.
  • Make sure all lamps have shades to prevent glare.

No More Dark Stairways All stairs, landings, and entries, inside and out, should be well lit.

  • Install a light switch at the top and bottom of each indoor staircase.
  • Point light directly onto stairs; be sure to light the whole staircase.
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Think Outside the Box A well-lit home inside won’t mean much if you fall on the patio or front stoop because it wasn’t lit well enough.

  • Shine a light on your address for convenience to others and for cases of emergency.
  • Be sure to light your front door so you can see who’s knocking.
  • Install motion detectors, which automatically activate lights when someone approaches the house; add these to existing lights or buy a kit that includes the detector and fixtures.

Where the Water Is Slippery surfaces will hide in the dark, so make sure there’s enough light in your bathtub and shower. In addition to lights or a window, a clear or lightly colored shower curtain helps to keep the area bright. Bathrooms are excellent places for nightlights. Turn one on before you turn in.

Light for Free Windows beckon natural light. Let in as much as you can.

  • Pull up shades and pull back curtains.
  • Sit near a window to read or sew; face away from it and let the sunlight shine over your shoulder and light what is in front of you.
  • Add skylights to your kitchen, bathroom, or family room; they really boost a room’s natural light.
  • Keep all windows clean.
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Lighting Don’ts: Don’t stay in the dark by:

  • Struggling to reach a light or light switch. Move it so you can turn it on and off easily.
  • Getting frustrated with hard-to-manage switches. Replace old flip switches with rocker switches that you can turn on and off with an elbow, fist, thumb, or even an umbrella.
  • Buying lamps or ceiling lights with bulbs that are hard to change. Some ceiling lights have globe-shaped covers you must remove to change the bulb. This can be hard to do, especially if you have trouble gripping large objects.
  • Buying hard-to-clean light fixtures. Less light shines through dirty fixtures. Clean indoor and outdoor lights often.
  • Forgetting about your closets. If you have lights in them, turn them on. If not, install lights that are easy to reach.
  • Risking your safety by turning lights off to save on your electric bill.

Safety First and Safety Last Practice these additional precautions:

  • Make sure lamp cords aren’t frayed or have wires exposed.
  • Try not to use extension cords.
  • Don’t leave cords where people can trip over them.
  • Check from time to time that lamps and light fixtures are in good working order.
  • Turn off fixtures and switches before replacing bulbs; if you’re unsure, unplug.
  • Be careful handling bulbs and shades—they get hot.
  • Don’t try to do your own electrical work; hire a licensed professional.
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