When you hit your 50's you probably began to make your peace with wearing glasses. At some point, you sighed and looked for "cool" bifocals or progressive lenses. Boy, glasses really helped you relax those wrinkly muscles around your eyes caused from squinting at restaurant menus and computer screens. But walking down steps...that's a whole 'nother challenge. I find myself looking under the glasses to clearly discern the edge of each step.
Physical movement and sight safety in the yard
Seeing steps as fuzzy when looking through my glasses is not really the fault of the glasses, though. It's a result of - oh, no, you'll hate to see this word like I do - a result of aging. As we continue to age, our depth perception decreases. Neither eyes nor brain function the way we've always expected. At some point, looking under the lenses won't help. Those steps will still look fuzzy, especially when moving down. How can you stay safe as your vision changes this way? At your home or in your garden, you could add a handrail and step down ever so s-l-o-w-ly. In public spaces, if there's no handrail on steps, you may need to opt for use of the handicap entry such as ramp and handrail.
But, wait, aren't there any other choices? What if handrails and ramps make you feel older than necessary, create depression and cause you to lose self-confidence?
Thoughtful design can enliven steps and make navigation easier. Let's keep handrails for stability and try other options for depth perception. One idea I've seen uses paint or a textured strip on the edge of each tread. Glow-in-the-dark paint could be a wonderful alternative if you have just one or two steps in your yard's walkway.
These are basic solutions, though. What about alternating two different colors on the treads, perhaps to match the house trim or a painted gazebo? Or another example is using concrete stain in a checkerboard pattern on the alternating treads. Both of these examples will help users distinguish the elevation changes caused by steps in a way that is visually interesting, even fun, and clearly a deliberately designed part of a yard or garden.
Think about exterior lighting for sight safety, too
Notice that you need more light when reading? The eye's need for additional light is even greater outside. In planning for better depth perception, light across the entire set of steps is vital. It's time to re-think any existing low-voltage lights that shine only on every third or fourth step. Pools of light alternating with shadow on steps or pavement are tough for older eyes because pupils don't enlarge or contract as quickly.
What have you noticed about changes that your eyesight? What does that mean for how you use and enjoy your yard? Need some new ideas for your aging-in-place yard? Call or email Second Summer for help.
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