We’ve also likely heard the expression “out of sight, out of mind” which sometimes means that when we can no longer see something or when something isn’t visible, it’s not a concern.
There’s another expression that says something along the lines of “what we can’t see can’t hurt us” which loosely means that we tend to worry about things not visible or apparent to us, although sometimes dangerous objects can be hidden from our view just below the surface or just out of our visible range. The idea is that we shouldn’t focus on them because try as we might we can’t see them.
All three of these expressions relate to a very important aging in place and home safety topic. They relate in various ways to items that might be blocking our path, low or ineffective lighting that is creating more of a hazardous walkway than should be the case, and low contrast between surfaces that tends to blur or obscure where walls and flooring meet or where furniture is located.
All of these are potentially dangerous to us and our clients because they can cause contact injuries as we run into objects that we easily should be able to avoid, or they result in falls as we misjudge where items are located in the home.
We know that falls are a major issue in our homes and that preventing them – for any age but especially as we get older – is a major objective of aging in place and visitability strategies. We can go to great lengths to create open hallways and access points, install easy to use door and cabinet hardware, have faucets that are easy to activate, and provide controls that are simple and intuitive to use. However, these become somewhat of an unappreciated effort if we are allowing dangerous conditions to exist right in front of us.
With LED lighting being so common and available in so many forms (discs for under-cabinet and in-cabinet lighting, strips for toe-kick and under-shelf lighting, cans, lamps, stairway, motion-activated, and solar powered), there is no reason for inadequate lighting to exist. The price of acquiring and installing LED lighting has dropped dramatically in recent years, so this is not a reason for not having them. We can even appeal to personal preferences of color temperature so that the space we are lighting seems reasonable to the people living in the space.
Proper lighting eliminates glare, illuminates tricky changes in elevation between surfaces, brings shadowed or lurking objects (even though we might be aware of them but still not see them clearly) out of hiding so we can recognize and avoid running into them, and it lets us more easily determine where changes in surfaces are such as cabinets, walls, and furniture. Of course, adding sufficient contrast to wall and furniture colors to separate them from flooring and adjacent definition to them – along with appropriate accessorizing – helps us relate to our living space more comfortably and safely.
Nothing in our homes should be hiding from our view that we might come into contact with as we are navigating our space. We shouldn’t have to be careful using our homes because we are afraid that we might accidentally trip over something or walk into it because we have misjudged where it was, didn’t see it because there was insufficient lighting in that area, or because glare was masking or obscuring our vision of it. We intend for our homes to be a safe haven for us. We need to take the next step and inspect them to see that they are – and then take whatever steps are necessary to make this happen.