I recently had the opportunity to interview Jay Massa, regional sales manager for Kenall Lighting, for an article I wrote about senior facilities lighting for The Electrical Distributor (TED) Magazine. The interview was extremely informative, and I wanted to share it with you complete here.
DiLouie: What are the major recent trends in how senior living facilities are designed and used, and how are they impacting lighting needs and applications?
Massa: A recent trend in the design of senior living facilities is the result of circadian rhythm research, which directly impacts lighting needs and applications. Blue light has been shown effective in resetting the circadian rhythm of aging adults. As a result, the use of blue light in senior living facilities can help improve sleep cycles, particularly for patients with Alzheimer’s disease.
DiLouie: What are the major lighting design considerations for lighting for senior living facilities? What do seniors need in terms of light level, glare control, color, etc. that is different than younger people?
Massa: By age 60, the eye receives only a third as much light as it did at age 20, which means seniors require considerably more light to see properly than their younger counterparts. They are also particularly sensitive to glare. These vision impairments raise significant safety concerns for the senior population. Inadequate lighting is also a safety concern because it impacts depth perception, making seniors particularly prone to falling. Therefore, an important design consideration when lighting senior living facilities is providing adequate footcandles for older eyes, and positioning the lamp source in such a way that disorienting shadows are minimized. In addition, automated controls can help seniors get in and out of bed safely and also adjust light levels without getting up, thereby avoiding trips and falls.
DiLouie: How would you characterize the senior living facilities market as a new construction market? What is current demand?
Massa: The simple truth is that never before in human history has there been so many older people on the planet. As the “baby boomer” population ages, the demand for senior living facilities will soon far outweigh the current capacity to serve this demographic. As a result, the senior living facilities market will need to include new construction if it is to keep pace with this demand. The “boomers” also represent a generation of seniors that, having been exposed to a swifter pace of technological advances that the previous generation, are technologically savvy. And while it’s true that it’s easier to incorporate state-of-the art technology into new construction, there are also significant opportunities to introduce it into existing facilities via retrofit/remodel situations. For example, LED technology offers a more energy efficient lighting alternative, representing significant electric utility cost savings to senior living facilities. Additionally, with new, state-of-the-art facilities being built, there is mounting pressure on facility owners to upgrade existing buildings in order to remain competitive.
DiLouie: How would you characterize it as a retrofit market? Have changes in best practice regarding lighting for seniors changed over the years to create a retrofit opportunity based on making the design up to date versus energy savings?
Massa: In order to remain competitive with new construction by incorporating advances in technology, including those that represent significant cost and energy savings to the facility owner, the senior living facilities market has become a prime market for retrofits. In addition, LED lamp sources offer a strong option for senior facilities from a safety perspective, while also offering significant opportunities for cost and energy savings via lighting retrofits.
DiLouie: What are the best opportunities to save energy in existing senior living facilities?
Massa: According to the US Energy Information Administration, cooling, lighting and ventilation accounts for 72 percent of a healthcare facility’s electricity use; with lighting alone consuming 42 percent electricity. Based on this, lighting certainly seems the obvious choice for upgrades, both interior and exterior fixtures.
And since going green saves money, senior living communities who achieve improved energy performance can invest their savings in improved care & services for the residents they serve. Additionally, automation that includes features like daylight harvesting, dimming and occupancy sensors can greatly enhance the already significant energy savings of more efficient lamp sources.
DiLouie: What are the best opportunities to update the lighting to current best practice?
Massa: I think it’s important that a facility develop and implement overarching Operation and Maintenance practices in which lighting upgrades are incorporated. To that end, innovative lighting designs and advanced technologies, including LEDs, photosensors and occupancy sensors, can help seniors in long-term care facilities maintain independence and be more comfortable. A shift to more natural, ambient lighting with greater uniformity and high CRI is also key.
As former Energy Secretary Steven Chu said on so many occasions, “energy efficiency isn’t just low-hanging fruit; it’s fruit lying on the ground.” To that end, the first lighting retrofit a facility can undertake is the exterior lighting for the parking lot or structure.
While the upfront costs are more than traditional fixtures, LED luminaires lessen the facility’s energy consumption, and energy and maintenance costs. Additionally, many times a senior living facility is located in a residential neighborhood and there are concerns about meeting light trespass requirements; LED luminaires with cutoff meet these requirements while providing desired light levels, which improve visibility and security for both the employees and residents.
Hard-to-reach lighting controls and bright, glaring room lights add to the difficulty seniors have getting up in the middle of the night. Additionally, nurses may need to check residents several times at night and often disrupt their sleep and comfort by repeatedly turning on the room lights. Therefore, it’s important that these lights be taken into account for upgrades.
DiLouie: What special lighting products are available for senior living facilities and what is their purpose and benefit? Please address how some senior living facilities present a mix of commercial, healthcare and residential lighting solutions.
Massa: In the common areas, the greatest lighting concern is often the aesthetic appearance of the fixture. However, in the apartments (in an independent living senior facility), it’s important to understand residents’ sight issues and to design and provide proper light levels to help elderly residents see better with less glare.
Another important factor in healthcare/senior living facilities is that the luminaires remain contaminant free, and meet or exceed relevant industry standards. These standards include cleaning protocols (NSF2 Splash Zone), or maintaining critical environmental barriers to guard against surface viruses (IP65 and K230).
Sconces are an ideal fixture to enhance the hallways both aesthetically and for illumination. Again, it’s important to not only consider styles that complement the architectural and interior designs but are ADA compliant, and NSF2 listed to meet the most stringent requirements for infection control and electromagnetic compatibility with sensitive medical equipment.
Another excellent fixture for senior living facilities is a sealed LED step light, which is a great choice for patient rooms, corridors, pathways, and workstation lighting. They’re on the market in a choice of amber, blue or white LED lamp sources and many manufacturers engineer them to be adjustable to 100 percent, 50 percent or 25 percent of full brightness.
A senior living facility also falls into the category of commercial because of the kitchen. Whether established by the USDA, the FDA or the end user themselves, today’s senior living facility must meet stringent cleanliness standards. Driven by the need to keep foods free of contaminants, the kitchen luminaires must support critical sanitation protocols while maintaining their sealed envelope. They must be designed to withstand rigorous cleaning protocols and meet performance listings relevant to their intended use—including wet location listings, IP65 ratings, and NSF2 certifications—all of which support frequent hosedown and overall cleanability.
DiLouie: What control options are most applicable for senior living facilities, and how would you characterize demand for these options?
Massa: In a senior living facility, lighting control options that adjust based on daylight and occupancy are the most applicable, as they assist residents in obtaining adequate light levels when and where they need them. This enables them to perform daily tasks and activities safely. The effective use of occupancy and daylighting controls also results in significant cost savings to the facility owner. Because controls represent a win/win for both resident and owner, the demand for these options is rising as our senior population is also on the rise.
DiLouie: How should electrical distributors engage their customers to sell the most effective lighting solutions for senior living facilities?
Massa: Distributors need to be the lighting problem solvers. Education is one of the most important ways distributors can arm themselves when engaging customers. Become familiar with the market. Know the lighting problems these facility owners and managers face. Have lighting options available that can solve even the most challenging environments. Work closely with reps and customers to offer the correct lighting solutions to solve any problems. Offer exceptional customer service. The sale doesn’t end when the product is delivered.
DiLouie: If you could tell all electrical distributors just one thing about lighting for senior living facilities, what would it be?
Massa: The most important consideration in lighting a senior living facility is ensuring the safety of the residents. It’s important to understand the light level requirements for various areas of the facility so that residents feel confident in their ability to venture down a hall or leave their room. Because the lens of the eye becomes more transparent as we age, the footcandle, color rendering and color temperature requirements of lighting a senior living space become mission critical.
DiLouie: Is there anything else you’d like to add about this topic?
Massa: As our parents age, we’ll soon see what the future holds as we ourselves begin to stand a pretty good chance of being in some form of assisted living facility or nursing home… By 2025 40% of the population will be over 55. Our ability to serve this growing segment of our population is fast becoming a huge social issue, but also a practical matter, even an economical concern. The key is to bring attention to meeting the unique needs of the aging population and pushing the limits of innovation to ensure their safety, well-being, and comfort.