Using Color and Contrast in the Home to Increase Safety

While recommendations for our Aging-in-Place clients often involve construction modifications, many improvements can be made by making simple changes using color and contrast. Clients that we work with may have degenerative vision loss that could include macular degeneration, retinitis pigmentosa, diabetic retinopathy or glaucoma. Many also experience reduced contrast sensitivity due to the normal aging of the eye.

White plate of food on black background
Blurry eye exam chart in background, appears clear through image of eyeglasses in foreground.

Below are some simple modifications that will help make a home more safe and functional for our clients.

  • Place light objects against dark backgrounds, and dark objects against light backgrounds. For example, select a coffee table that contrasts in color with flooring, so that the furniture edges will be more visible/less of a hazard.
  • Install door handles that contrast with door color. For example, if the door has a light color, instead of choosing a brushed silver, instead choose a bronze or darker colored knob, or vice versa.
  • Make stairways or porch steps safer by marking or painting the edges of steps with highly contrasting color.
  • Install electrical wall plates and switch covers that contrast in color to wall.
  • Mark thermostat with bright colored labels/or colored tape.
  • Paint door frame a color that contrasts with wall color around it.
  • Select grab bars for installation that contrast in color to the wall/s behind them.

These are just some ideas that may be used to help our Aging in Place clients to maximize the use of their vision. For specific modification ideas for various sections of the home, you may find some of the below articles helpful:

Efficient Use of Lighting in the Home

Furniture—Visibility, Placement, and Safety

Elimination of Clutter and Hazards


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