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Lighting: The Bright Stuff

Add fixtures, increase wattage and upgrade switches for greater ease and safety when things begin to look a little dim.

As we get older, it seems we need less of just about everything. With the kids gone, we keep less food around the house. Many of us need less sleep than we did when we were younger. And most of us have learned to live on less money.

There is one thing that you'll need more of when you get older. It's light. If you're 30, you need more light to read than a 15-year-old does. People in their 50s and 60s need even more light to see properly.

Make it a point to check your home's lighting from time to time. This will help you make sure you're getting all the light you need in the places where you need it most.

Make Use of the Free Stuff

Sunlight is free, and it can help brighten any living place. Don't let it go to waste. Put your reading chair next to a window. Open the curtains. Pull up the shades. Keep the windows clean. Let as much natural light into your home as you can.

Add Lights Where You Need Them

There are two ways to boost the amount of artificial light in your home. You can add more incandescent lighting fixtures. You can also increase the wattage of your bulbs. Before increasing your wattage, check the instructions on your light fixture. Don't use a bulb that has more watts than the manufacturer suggests.

Be sure that all walkways, stairs and entrances outside your home have plenty of light. Bright lights will help you keep your footing at night. It will also keep thieves away. It's a good idea to install lights that turn on by themselves when someone gets close to the house. Some lights also turn on when it gets dark, or when someone makes a sound.

Good lighting on all stairways - inside and out - is also a must. Put a light switch at the top and bottom of each staircase. That way you'll never get caught in the dark. Make sure your lights point right on the stairs. They should be bright enough to light up the whole staircase.

Make sure all work areas - like your kitchen counter - also have plenty of light. Mount lights under your cabinets in the kitchen. They will brighten up your whole work area. And you won't ever find yourself working in the shadows.

Beef up the lighting in all the places where family members do their reading. Use three-way bulbs so every family member can select the amount of light they like best. Use a lamp that lets you direct light exactly where you need it. Floor lamps are great for this. So are lamps that have flexible necks.

And don't forget the nightlights! They may save you from stubbing your toe on the way to the bathroom at 3 a.m. They also work wonders for grandchildren who are afraid of the dark.

Turning On Lights with Ease

Lights won't help you if you can't turn them on or change their bulbs. Keep this in mind when you install your fixtures.

It will be easier to turn on your lights if you use rocker switches. These switches are bigger than the skinny switches that you flip with your finger. You can turn them on and off with an elbow, a fist or a thumb. This is helpful when your hands are full. You can even turn on rocker switches with an umbrella or cane. These switches are great for people who don't have good strength in their fingers and hands.

Before you buy a lamp, make sure its bulb is easy to change. Don't buy ceiling lights with bulb covers. Some of these covers are shaped like globes. You have to remove these globes before you can change the light bulb. Most people find this hard to do. It's even harder for people who have trouble gripping large objects.

Finally, make sure your lamp or light fixture is easy to clean. If your fixtures are dirty, they won't give you all the light you need. Be sure to clean them often. And don't forget to clean outdoor lights too. That includes porch lights where bugs can make a mess in the summer. Car headlights need your attention too. Wash them every time you wash the windshield.

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