Our eyes go through a lot of changes as we age. Yes, older adults are known for turning the font size on their phones way up and holding books at arm’s length. The real challenges that aged eyes face, though, is in seeing small details, color contrast and the distinction between light and dark. Our eyes also become very sensitive to glare and concentrated bright light creating momentary blindness and discomfort. If you’ve ever driven past a large truck with its high beams on at night, you know what this feels like.
Keeping homes filled with safe light is a big part of smart aging-in-place design. You can imagine how dark hallways or the glare bouncing off the walls can have serious safety repercussions.
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Strategically-Placed Strip Lights Can Create a Safe, Well-Lit Aging-in-Place Home
Strip lights are one of the best weapons to battle dark rooms and low-contrast spaces in a home. Our eyes need quality light and more of it as we get older. Strip lights give you the opportunity to add light to areas that are notoriously dark like hallways, kitchen countertops, drawers, cabinets and more.
Where You Place Strip Lights Matters
Strip lights make a huge difference in aging-in-place safety when they’re installed in the dark, shadowy corners of a home. Here are the top four places where strip lights can make the biggest impact.
Above the Kitchen Counter
No matter how bright the kitchen, countertops are almost always darker than the rest of the kitchen. And, everything on the kitchen countertop casts a shadow that makes distinguishing objects even harder for older adults. Pair this with the fact that the kitchen counter is where we slice, chop and peel our food and you can see how dangerous a dark countertop is for an older adult. This is why additional light above the kitchen counter is vital. If you don’t add strip lights anywhere else in your home, add them here.
Lining the Inside of Shelves, Cabinets and Closets
Shelves, cabinets and closets, especially ones with doors or that are recessed deep into the wall, are some of the best places to install a thin strip of light. Because strip lights are thin and discrete, you can easily add a strip at the base of each shelf in your pantry, kitchen and bathroom. This makes grabbing plates, glassware, or food items a lot easier and safer. Closets packed with coats make it hard for any of us to see through. A strip light at the top of the door frame with light cast down makes life a lot easier for the aging-in-place adult.
Around the Perimeter of the Hallway
Hallways can be especially dark areas of the home. When an older adult is walking down a hallway into a bedroom or bathroom, they have doorknobs and thresholds to contend. Low-light and shadows make these tasks all the more challenging. I love how adding a simple set of strip lights along the base of the hallway floor makes such a big difference here.
Pro Tip: If running a ring of strip lights around the perimeter of the hallway isn’t possible or is just too much light for your parent, focus on the areas in the hallway that will cast light along each threshold. This will add light around the places that pose the greatest fall risk, and help direct your parent to where the doorway is in the first place.
Along Door Thresholds
Just like in the hallway, lighting that illuminates door thresholds in the rest of the house is a great way to easily increase aging-in-place safety. If your parent’s eyesight has significantly deteriorated, I’d place a strip light on or near the threshold of most, if not all, of the doorways in the house. You can also run an adhesive strip light all the way around the entire door frame. This will make it easier to find the doorknob and peephole.
Strip Lights Aren’t a One-Size-Fits-All Solution
You have some decisions to make when you’re looking to add strip lights to your aging-in-place home. The lights you choose should depend on where you plan to place the lights, the amount of light you need and your personal preference as to how the lights look when they’re installed.
Installation is another aspect to consider. The installation of strip lights spans from the simplest of DIY projects to slightly more advanced work that includes getting cords hidden behind or around the cabinets, dressers, doorways or wherever they’re placed.
Let’s look at a mix of easy and moderate installations along with some of the strip lights I use and recommended for any project you’re tackling.
Here’s How to Install Light Strips the Right Way for Aging in Place
Strip Lights with a Cord
Installation with Cord Exposed: Easy
Installation with Cord Hidden: Moderate
Strip lights with cords are typically the most economical and easiest-to-install option. Most stick to a surface with no other installation steps required.
Pro Tip: Wash the underneath of the cabinet where you plan to place the strip with rubbing alcohol. This creates a strong hold so your lights stay in place longer.
The trade-off with these lights is cord itself. If you’re adding a strip light over top of your kitchen counters, you’re going to see the cord extending down into an outlet unless you spend the time and a little money to hide the cord. This comes down to personal preference. If you don’t mind seeing the cord, these lights are a quick and easy addition to your kitchen.
If you’re like me and don’t want to see a cord hanging down from a set of strip lights and into an outlet, there is another option. If you’re placing a strip light along a threshold or inside a cabinet, it’s a lot easier to hide the cord. If your intention is countertop lighting and you want to hide the cord, this project shifts from an easy install to a moderate one.
If you’re adding in under-cabinet lighting as a part of a bigger remodel, you can add a power source inside one of your cabinets as a part of the project. But, if you’re just adding strip lights and you don’t already have an outlet in a cabinet, you’ll need to add one.
Pro Tip: If you fall into this category, it’s time to call in a professional. DIYers should not handle electrical work without some serious experience. The dangers far outweigh the risks. Adding an outlet is a pretty easy job for a professional contractor and you’ll have peace-of-mind in knowing the work will be done well and to code.
My Favorite Adhesive Strip Lights with a Cord:
This LED strip light is designed for adding light over a kitchen countertop, but it can be added to any space where extra light is needed. This bar could not be easier to install. You can place it under the kitchen cabinet with no tools needed. And, if you have a long countertop to light, you can purchase additional lights and connect them to form one long strip.
What I like best about this strip light is how easy it is to use for aging in place. It has a highly responsive motion detector making it easy and painless to turn on and offer. It also includes a dimmer setting so turning it on at night in a dark kitchen isn’t going to create a bright glare or discomfort to your parent’s eyes.
Wobane makes a thin yet durable strip tape that’s a great way to wrap lighting around curved spaces like L-shaped countertops, door frames, and the back of TVs. Because it’s a tape, it’s extremely low-profile. I use it to light up the backs of bookshelves or eye-level open cabinets so you see the light but not the strip. If seeing a strip light is going to bug your parent, this is one to check out.
This is the big one. If your parent’s kitchen has a long stretch of uninterrupted countertop space, this 40-inch long LED strip light is one seamless, touchless, dimmable light that can illuminate the entire counter length. When you install the light strip, you will need to screw it into the cabinet or fixture above. With such a long strip, I don’t trust the adhesive to do the job alone. If you have a long countertop to cover, I’d definitely suggest getting this single light strip rather than piecing together several lights if you can.
Strip Lights Without a Cord
Cordless strip lights are also very easy to install. Most are secured to a wall or cabinet with adhesive. Others use an adhesive magnet bar which gives the light a strong base. And, there are some that come with screws for mounting. Either way, installing a cordless strip light should be one of the easiest and fastest installations you tackle during your aging-in-place home project.
My Favorite Cordless Strip Lights:
This CSHID strip light is just about perfect for aging in place. It has a ton of great features that make it one of the best strip lights out there for creating a safe environment for an older adult as they make their way around the house. It’s rechargeable, casts a wide light and is easy-to-install. But, what I like most about this strip light is its motion sensor. It will illuminate as your parent walks through the home without them needing to flip a switch.
This strip light from Auspice is a powerful option that’s going to add a lot of light to your aging-in-place home. And, because it’s cordless and rechargeable, you can place it pretty much anywhere. I’ve placed several near handrails, in bathrooms, in hallways and other places that can easily get dark at night. This model gives you the option to install it with adhesive or with screws. If you can attach it safely with screws, I’d recommend it. You’ll get a stronger hold that will reduce potential damage.
My only word of warning with this strip light is it’s high-profile. If seeing the light fixture under the kitchen cabinet or along the hallway floor bothers you, you’re better off with a thin, low-profile strip light instead. If not, then this Auspice model is a great choice when you need a lot of extra light.
Last, but not least, is the Closet Strip Bar from Vyanlight. The Vyanlight bar is installed at the top of the closet’s doorway with an adhesive metal strip so there’s no chance of it falling to the ground. It casts a wide light to give you more visibility in a dark closet. It’s also automatic so your parent doesn’t have to exert any energy reaching up above their head to turn on a light switch – the perfect feature for the aging-in-place closet.
Brighten Up Your Aging-in-Place Home in Just an Hour or Two
These easy-to-install strip lights are some of the fastest and most effective ways to make immediate safety updates to your aging-in-place home. Use the comments section below to send me your questions as you get to work.
Good luck with your next aging-in-place project!