Nothing beats a summer evening outdoors, unless lighting is inadequate or nonexistent. Garden lighting should be part of every design – especially for the senior gardener. Poorly lit garden paths are dangerous for everyone. It’s so easy to misstep on a poorly lit path. While such an incident may result in a minor bump for the younger family members, the result for older members could be broken bones, a concussion or worse. Our bones grow more brittle as we age.
If your garden paths are lined with solar powered stake lights, consider replacing them with low voltage stake lights. They’re brighter. They can be controlled, and they turn on even when the sun wasn’t out that day. Low voltage lights are connected by wires to a box plugged into an outlet rated for outdoor use. You can buy control boxes with on/off timers that will allow you to control what time they turn on and off, rather being on from dusk to dawn.
You may also want motion detector activated lights in key locations in your garden. Spot or floodlights may be needed for security or to light the area when you want to work out there in the evening. Some lights may be located in trees angled down to the area you want lit.
It’s a good idea to light the perimeter of your patio to reduce the chance of coming too close to the edge and slipping off. Even if a planting bed is at the same level as the patio pavers, the difference in texture can cause a senior gardener to lose their balance and fall.
You’ll surely want a variety of lighting on the patio to illuminate your various activities in that outdoor room. This may be a series of strategically placed floods attached to the house and hardwired to switches. Or they may be lower intensity lamps placed where needed. For example, you’ll need to light the grill or outdoor kitchen, the dining area and the sitting areas where you relax and read or watch television. Yes, television. They make TVs that are protected for outdoor use. Some even retract into a protective cabinet.
It’s not a good idea to just start hanging lights and hope they do what they’re supposed to. It’ll save time and money to try various portable lights in different positions to be sure they can be aimed correctly than to go right to the permanent installation. Be sure all outlets are GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) units. These have a built-in circuit breaker that will shut them off if they get wet, rather than shocking you.
If you have a water feature consider lighting it, especially if it’s a pond. Ponds can be lit for effect with LED lights that change color and reflect in the water. You also have to consider safety. A pond is another of those garden features that can be dangerous for seniors. Inadequate or non-existent lighting could result in your getting disoriented and falling in. Like all hazards, the results can be worse for seniors than younger adults. Fountains aren’t as hazardous as a pond but would look nice with lights playing off the rising plume of water.
Actually, I place lighting installation in the same category as tree work. For your health and safety, it’s best left to the pros. Sure, you can locate where you need lights and then hire a licensed electrician to install them. Or you can work with a landscape professional or outdoor lighting contractor to design and install all the outdoor lighting where in will be the most beneficial.
The takeaway from this is that it’s dangerous for senior gardeners to be in an unlit garden. There are too many hazards that can put your gardening on hold for long convalescences. Super adequate lighting should be at the top of every senior gardener’s adaptive gardening plan.
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