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According to the Center of Design For An Aging Society in Portland, Ore., older people need more light (about three-to-five times more than younger people) for both vision and maintaining health.
Seniors are well aware that as they age their eye lenses thicken and their pupils shrink. This causes their eyes to adapt more slowly to changing light conditions and increases the need for more light, and not just for vision and safety.
Many seniors don’t get outside enough, so there are many reasons to consider bringing more natural light in. They need vitamin D for calcium to be absorbed by the body to strengthen teeth, bones and tissue to maintain a healthy skeleton throughout life. Two sources of vitamin D are diet and sunlight. In healthy human bodies, 80 percent of vitamin D is produced in the skin when it is exposed to natural light. A vitamin D deficiency can contribute to the brittle-bone disease osteoporosis, a major issue of aging, particularly for women.
And the benefits of having abundant daylight in our homes aren’t just physical. Studies show that Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), evidenced by emotional depression, a drop in physical energy, increased appetite, and need for more sleep, is directly linked to a lack of sufficient daylight.
Some researchers are concluding that light therapy may help to alleviate SAD symptoms faster than antidepressant drugs. In a review of clinical trials of light therapy, Dr. Daniel Kripke at the University of California, San Diego reported that light therapy benefits not only SAD patients but also people suffering from other forms of depression.
Sunlight can enter our dwellings and be balanced through the use of windows, doors and skylights. According to Joe Patrick, senior product manager with VELUX America, skylights admit 30-percent more light than vertical windows in dormers, and provide the drama of a sky view that can’t be achieved with vertical windows.
“Skylights also offer much more privacy than vertical windows without taking up valuable wall space that can be used for decorating or storage, which is a real benefit as seniors downsize living spaces,” Patrick says.
They also offer economic benefits – a way to stretch fixed-income dollars with a one-time purchase that pays benefits over time by reducing energy costs. Venting skylights transform living areas into bright, safer spaces by admitting light from above; and they provide a dose of the medicine that daylight and fresh air offer.
And now is a particularly good time to consider upgrading existing skylights or adding new units to qualify for a tax credit of up to $200 under the Energy Tax Incentives Act of 2005. Details are available at http://www.energy.gov/taxbreaks.htm.
For more information on the benefits of natural light and skylight selection call (800) 283-2831 or visit http://www.veluxusa.com. For government information on window and skylight energy efficiency visit http://www.energystar.gov, and for independent agency information visit http://www.nfrc.org or http://www.efficientwindows.org.