Blog, Senior Living Facilities

How Lighting Illuminates More Than A Room

April 6, 2017

Picture this: you’re at your desk, working on a project, stressing about the deadline. The phone rings, emails come in; it’s a typical day at the office. At some point, you look up from where you’re hunched over and glance outside. It’s beautiful. Cloudless and sunny. Instinctively, you feel the pull to go outside, to get away from the chaos of the office for even just a few minutes.

So out you go.

The sun is bright; the air is warm, the rich green color of the trees contrasts amazingly with the sky. Within seconds you feel better, more alive, a bit more at peace, and the stress seems to ebb a bit. What you’re experiencing is biophilia, the hard-wired human need to connect with nature.

Thirty years ago, we didn’t have the technology to conduct the studies to acquire the data to tell us what we already knew – that being outside is good for us. Now we do, and the information coming out is fascinating. Interacting with nature, even in an indoor environment (think greenhouse and bio walls), provides a great many benefits. Lower blood pressure, better sleeping and eating habits, greater cognitive abilities, reduced stress, stress hormone reduction and improved cognitive performance are just a few of the quantifiable effects of exposure to nature.

How does this happen?

One way is how the body processes natural light. Natural light, with its spectrum of wavelengths, causes specific hormonal cascades in the body which we perceive as emotional and physical well-being. Fluorescent lighting doesn’t come close to replicating this outdoor environment. Color changing LEDs and other specialty light sources, with the proper controls, can be used to better reproduce the outdoor environment for seniors. This is a bit of the knowledge that has come out of the biophilic design field and was presented at EFA (Environments for the Aging Conference).

Savvy senior living designers are starting to incorporate biophilic design principles into their projects, and savvy developers and operators are starting to insist on them. Biophilic design bridges the gap between the holistic, aesthetic, and touchy-feely mentality of architects and the focused, quantifiable mentality of engineers.