Illuminating lighting in assisted living

John Casadonte
John Casadonte

As the senior population swells, it is imperative that today's long-term care facilities are designed to meet the needs of residents. Luckily, healthcare is the next industry poised to explode with innovation because of technology. It is important to explore design considerations that improve resident care and your facility's value proposition while lowering operational costs.

Advancements in lighting are among the most recent and most promising innovations to assure a better quality of life in assisted living and nursing facilities for seniors. Using light emitting diode (LED) lighting can enhance assisted living experiences in three significant ways:

  • Increasing resident safety with high-quality illumination
  • Enabling increased patient comfort and satisfaction with adjustable lighting
  • Saving money for facility management through associated reductions in energy and maintenance costs.

Safety First

The most important consideration is safety. Senior living facilities are often 24/7/365 operations, and require proper illumination to support residents' needs at all times throughout the day. For instance, residents often have to get up out of bed and go to the bathroom at night, requiring light levels that surpass the average nightlight, but not delivering the full brightness of room lighting. Unlike other technologies, LED lighting is adjustable and controllable in many ways to deliver residents a sense of safety and security in their spaces.

Another critical element is lighting that accommodate seniors' changing vision. As eyes age, they become less effective. Impaired vision raises significant safety concerns for senior citizens. Inadequate lighting is a safety risk, because it impacts depth perception and other visual capabilities, making seniors particularly prone to accidents such as falling. As a result, it is important that light levels be high and uniform, within each space. The mature eye takes longer to adapt to significant changes in light level, so light levels should be adequately consistent from space to space.

Recognizing the importance of high-performing interior lighting, Cree recently introduced WaveMax™ Technology to achieve precise optical control, maximized visual comfort, color consistency and uniform illumination with up to 90% optical efficiency. Featured in Cree's LN Series, WaveMax Technology enables light to be distributed exactly where it is needed by residents, eliminating wasted light that may interfere with vision and safety.

Senior living communities often include outdoor areas, such as pathways, large open spaces, parking lots and parking deck structures, which also require high levels of uniform illumination for residents, staff and visitors. For example, the WaveMax Technology-enabled Cree® IG Series LED parking garage luminaries provide low-glare illumination that helps eliminate dark spaces and can also help improve the performance of other safety systems, such as video cameras, by enabling clearer images.

With this available technology, assisted living settings can provide vibrant visual environments and better overall experiences for everyone.

Increasing Resident Satisfaction

Another important opportunity to enhance residents' lifestyle and convenience is to provide seniors the ability to control their own environment. Assisted living communities are already focused on making home-felt environments, allowing residents to control their amenities such as temperature, television and lighting.

Advanced LED technology, such as Cree® SmartCast® Technology, allows lighting to be directly controlled and adjusted for different environments, such as common areas and resident rooms, or residents' preferences. With the added feature of adjustable correlated color temperatures for Cree's CR Series LED troffers enabled with Cree SmartCast Technology wireless lighting controls, senior living providers have greater control over individual spaces within the same building. This eliminates the need to pick color temperature at the onset of installation, and enables the controllability of individual troffers in any space to accommodate varied lighting preferences.

For example, a new resident might prefer warmer light, compared to a previous resident who may have enjoyed a cooler color temperature. Through LED technology, each resident has the flexibility to match a color temperature to their preference, providing a sense of empowerment and increased resident satisfaction.

Delivering Bottom-Line Savings

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, cooling, lighting and ventilation accounts for 72% of a healthcare facility's electricity use; with lighting alone consuming 42% of electricity. Therefore, LED lighting is an attractive opportunity to improve residents' experience while dramatically reducing energy and maintenance costs. Across common areas and hallways, staff office areas and resident rooms, LED lighting can offer high-quality, energy-efficient and near-maintenance-free illumination – providing rapid payback and real long-term budget savings for assisted living communities.

LED lighting can reduce energy costs. LED lighting enabled by controls such as Cree's SmartCast Technology can reduce energy consumption by as much as 70% compared to traditional fluorescent lighting.  

An additional benefit to installing energy-efficient LED lighting is its longevity. For instance, the average projected life of a quality LED fixture is 75,000 hours or more compared to a 30,000-hour projected lifetime of a typical fluorescent lamp. With no relamping for up to 10 years with LED lighting, facility management will see significant savings in maintenance costs, as well as reductions in disruption to occupants. Maintenance staff will no longer need to dedicate time and resources to changing lights and managing interruptions to residents' schedules, freeing time for other duties.

Senior living communities that implement intelligent LED fixtures can invest their bottom-line savings to improve the care and services for the residents they serve.

Maximizing Senior Well-Being

As the fifty million “baby boomers” age and seek senior living care, implementing high-quality and energy-efficient LED lighting can help address the unique needs of this demographic while delivering on the promise of quality assisted living that ensures their safety, well-being and comfort.

John Casadonte is a vertical marketing manager at Cree, an industry leader in LED lighting for interior and exterior applications. He currently supports Cree's Education initiative to help sustainability efforts and achieve LEED qualification for the many institutions nationwide.

Cree® and SmartCast® are registered trademarks and WaveMax™ is a trademark of Cree, Inc.

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