Many senior living and care providers have taken significant steps to create interior lighting conditions that benefit residents’ habits and sleep cycles. But experts say providers should be doing more about negative outside lighting effects on their residents. 

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Light pollution from urban areas can have a negative impact on health, and may even damage eyesight: Higher amounts of “outdoor artificial light at night” result in an increased risk of age-related macular degeneration, a new study published in JAMA shows.

AMD is an eye disease that blurs central vision, and as the name suggests, it becomes increasingly common in older adults; approximately 15% of Americans aged 65 or more years have AMD, and that number jumps to 40% for aged 85 or more years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

The CDC also notes that AMD causes blindness in roughly 1.3 million seniors in the United States.

Although operators may not be able to turn all the lights off in their home cities, they can take steps to make sure that “smart” or low-intensity lighting systems are in place both indoors and out on their campuses.

Why light pollution would trigger AMD is uncertain, but the relationship between circadian rhythm disruption and eye disease is fairly strong, according to the study in JAMA

“Disruption of circadian rhythms can trigger the production of proinflammatory cytokines and increase basal inflammation,” the study authors wrote. “Considering the relationship between systemic inflammation, aging and the immune system’s involvement in the development of AMD, it is plausible that the association between [light pollution] and AMD risk can be explained in terms of similar mechanisms.”

Although the study was conducted by researchers in Korea, light pollution issues are a major problem in all major US cities. Six of the top 10 worst metro areas for light pollution are in the United States and Canada, one report found: Miami, Denver, Detroit, Toronto, Chicago and Montreal.

As one might expect for seniors with vision impairment, eye disease creates extra risk for falls and fractures, the McKnight’s Clinical Daily reported earlier this month.


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