Using colour and tone to good effect – Age-Friendly Homes

In this article we will look at using colour and tone to good effect at home for an an age-friendly future.

Subtle changes to the colour and tone in a room can help make it more age friendly, whilst still keeping the design and ‘feel’ of the room.

Improving how well the main elements in a room can be distinguished against each other is another great, low-cost adjustment. Can you easily identify the walls, floors, furniture and switches in the room you are in right now? (Try looking around with your eyes almost closed or in soft focus. Can they still be identified easily enough?)

The busier the room is, the stronger the definition needs to between the elements. The two images below are very different, neither of them have good definition between the elements – can you see why?

Having a well contrasted design makes the room more easy to ‘understand’ and reduces the risk of collision or tripping over poorly identified pieces of furniture. But you don’t have to fill your space with bright colours to achieve this, the changes can be made though subtle, harmonious combinations when the elements have a good tonal contrast between each other. Something as simple as changing the rug, swapping items of furniture around or painting a wall will have a big impact.

Example of using colour and tone to good effect at home

The interactive image below shows how minor changes can make a bid different. Slide the central arrow bar sideways to see the difference between the two rooms.

They are identical in size, shape and light levels. The room on the left has low contrast between the elements because they all have similar tone and it is harder to identify objects and edges. (Look for the coffee table glass top and the rug edge with a soft focus or almost closed eye and you will see what we mean.) On the other hand, the room on the right has great contrast between most of the main elements. For example, the rug edge can be clearly identified against the floor, and the coffee table stands out well against the lighter rug.

An example of how to improve the contrast between elements in a room. The Left Hand image has low contrast between elements, the Right Hand image has good contrast between most elements. (Images: Amazon Showroom)

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Age-Friendly Homes – Small Changes Series – Tip #2 – Lighting – (Article 1 of 3)

Time to ditch old light bulbs that no longer provide enough light

Adjustment #2: LIghting

When is the last time you changed your lighting at home?

And we don’t mean replacing a blown bulb – We mean upgrading those old compact fluorescent bulbs that never ‘die’.  You, or your loved ones, probably have one lurking around the mirror in your bathroom, in the garage, on the landing or perhaps even in the kitchen. They are the bulbs that take a while to warm up, sometimes flicker and produce a dim, yellow-white light.

What is wrong with them?

Compact Fluorescent Bulbs are those curly tubes that fit a standard light bulb fitting or the long tubes on the ceiling. They were once hailed as the energy efficient alternative to traditional tungsten bulbs, and many of us still have them in our homes.  And indeed they did / do use less energy. But they also degrade very quickly and produce a very poor quality and level of light after a relatively short time.

The impact of Poor Quality Lighting

The older we are, the more light (and the better quality light) we need to stay safe and stay well. For example, research shows that our 40 year-old selves need twice the amount of light (light level) compared to our 20 year-old selves; and our 60 year-old selves need twice as much again. But we rarely take this into account as we age.

In extremis, poor quality light and low levels of light can cause permanent eye damage. On a daily basis, unsuitable lighting causes eye-strain leading to headaches and tiredness.  Poor lighting also makes it more difficult to see hazards, read the instructions on medication packs and operate controls.

But simply replacing the outdated compact fluorescent bulbs with any-old LED just won’t do. They need certain qualities to them to make for a better lighting solution.

Good quality lighting has 3 main features:

  1. Good Light output. (We measure light levels in Lux)
  2. A High Colour Rendition score. (This is how accurately we see the true the colour of something under the artificial light, when compared to the same object in daylight)
  3. Low flicker (Even imperceptible flicker can cause eye fatigue)

And then on top of this you can choose what kind of colour ‘temperature’ the lighting has. Do you want Warm white lighting (a yellow-gold glow) that is reminiscent of dawn and dusk or a fireside? Or do you want Cool white (a blueish light) that more closely replicates daylight, or something in between?

A particularly good example of a light-bulb manufacturer and range is the Philip’s Eye Comfort Lighting Range. They are available from most good retailers.

And if you are looking for top-quality reading lamp, you should take a look at Serious Readers, the specialist reading lamps company.

This is the first in our series of 3 Lighting articles to help you bring a bit more brightness to the darker days.

In another series of articles we also look at the benefits of Daylight and sunlight on our health and well-being.

Click here if you missed our article Adjustment #1: Rugs and Mats

Age-Friendly Homes – Small Changes Series – Tip #1 – Rugs and Mats

Rugs and Mats are useful but can create a real trip hazard if they don’t sit flat to the floor, are too thick or slip and move.

Adjustment #1: Rugs and Mats

Although rugs and mats are brilliant at giving a room personality, soaking up muddy pawprints or keeping your feet warm – they are also one of the biggest trip risks in a home.

And tripping means trouble if the impact of a fall results in injury.

What should I do, I love my rugs?

You don’t necessarily need to get rid of rugs, but move them out of the main routes, especially if they are thick or shaggy pile.  

An example of keeping the main routes clear of trip hazards at the stunning Calamansac Accessible Holiday Home by Cowan Architects

The best kind of rugs to have are short pile rugs with rubber backing, such as the range by Turtle Mats.  But if you don’t have these, then add a non-slip underlay underneath the ones you do have, such as the Foxi Rug Tamer range – making sure this non-slip underlay goes to the edges, or use corner sticks.

As soon as your rug starts to curl at the edges then it is time to upcycle it!

Want the next Small Changes idea? Read here for Adjustment #2: Lighting