Saturation Based Color Contrast by Older Adults: What do They See?

By Asha L. Hegde.

Published by The International Journal of Science in Society

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

This experimental study examined the effects of interior light sources on saturation based color contrast by older subjects with normal vision. As people age, their ability to discriminate color is negatively affected especially in the less saturated colors of green, blue, and violet. This occurs mainly due to the yellowing and thickening of the lens, which blocks the shorter wavelengths of color (blues, greens, and violets) from reaching the optic nerves. If elderly perceive color incorrectly, the negative consequences could include accidents, loss of productivity and disorientation.
Sixty elderly subjects (65- 90years) from three senior citizen centers located in an urban setting in the US participated in an experimental study. Each subject evaluated 4 color pallets—red, green, blue and purple simultaneously in each of the saturation levels (low, medium, and high) and rated them on dimensions of color contrast.
When colors were presented in high saturation, blue received the highest rating of good visual contrast followed by green. When colors were presented in low saturation, purple and red received high acceptability while blue received the lowest rating. Practitioners can consider the results of this study and make informed decisions about appropriate color specifications for elderly clients in interior environments such as health care, nursing homes, adult daycare and retirement homes. The findings of this study will enable elderly negotiate the interior environments and make visually informed choices about objects and scenes in the environment with confidence.

Keywords: Elderly, Older Adults, Color, Hue, Visual Contrast, Visual Clarity, Color and Light, Color Saturation, Aging Eye, Lighting

The International Journal of Science in Society, Volume 2, Issue 1, pp.139-150. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 516.748KB).

Dr. Asha L. Hegde

Assistant Professor, Family and Consumer Sciences, Texas State University--San Marcos, San Marcos, Texas, USA

Asha L. Hegde, Ph.D, RID, LC, is an Assistant Professor of Interior Design and Lighting, in the Department of Family & Consumer Sciences at Texas State University-San Marcos. Hegde focuses her research on the effects of light and color on individual’s health and behavior and overall well being of user within the interior environment—specifically the older adult. Her research papers regarding effects of light and color on the aging eye appear in the Research Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences as well as in Journal of Applied Gerontology. She is also a certified lighting designer and a registered interior designer in the State of Texas who specializes in architectural lighting.