Face it. You have just “fallen back” an hour for your time zone. Winter is “the dark season.” So it’s a great time to use the natural lower light levels to evaluate visual support changes to make in your Elderyarding® garden.
Patrick Roden’s Aging in Place website lists three eyesight changes that impact your ability to stay safe and independent. Let’s see how these apply in your Elderyarding® garden.
#1: “reduced visual acuity.”
Ah, reading the fine print on the restaurant menu is tougher as you get older, isn’t it? Discerning small details becomes harder in the garden, too. Where do the details happen in your garden? Are they all underfoot or at ground level – paving, small plants, faucets? Rethink where the details happen. Raise the faucet. Move small plants from the ground into containers and place those containers closer to eye level. Think pedestals or walls, or even move the containers to the porch or patio where the plants are closer when you’re sitting. Or replace plants that have small blooms with ones that are larger. Make it easier for your eye to notice the details.
Evaluate the safety in the details, too. Gorgeous garden coffee table books show trendy paving with mosaics, small inset stones, lots of change in materials, but these aren’t always the safest in an Elderyard®. Check the paved surfaces around your home. Is it still easy for you to notice loose stones, wet leaves, or icy spots? Think about installing more lighting in the yard. Use it on cloudy days or at dawn and dusk to assist your eyes in dimmer light, not just in the dark.
#2: “reduced contrast sensitivity.”
I’ve written before about taking a second look at steps and sections of paving that change level. A residential garden I visited on a recent garden tour reminded me of this change, as the paths were made of packed decomposed granite. Level changes were steps where the granite gravel had been contained by a narrow steel edging. Steps often rely on shadow or a color change, and going up is easier to see. Check out your steps at dusk. Can you determine where the edge is when you are heading down? Then add stronger contrast. Your eyes will continue to change with age!
Even if surfaces are level, subtle color differences will get harder to see. What fun is the garden if you can’t see the contrast and the details? Consider concrete stains or outdoor paint to increase contrast. And, deliberately install handrails wherever you have steps. Help your brain make the connection between railings and a change of grade throughout your yard to keep alert and focused.
#3: “reduced color discrimination.”
Have you noticed it’s harder to drive a darkened street with street lamps that create pools of light rather than even lighting? Your eyes have to adjust to a switch of dark and light, and it takes longer with age. The same thing can happen in your garden. Check where pools of light fall, such as the edge of a patio. If the patio is well-lighted, but the grass or steps beyond are not you could stumble and fall. Check the opposite, too, moving from bright sunlight into a dark shed or from deep shade of a large tree into sun on a light concrete sidewalk.
Changing from daylight saving time has the effect of moving the “extra” light in the day from evening to morning. It’s a good reminder to plan for eyesight changes that affect your enjoyment of the garden – it’s just one more Elderyarding® principle.