(Photo courtesy of Salmon Health and Retirement)

The clocks turned back earlier this week, but Daylight Savings Time can be a frustrating change for older adults — and it can come with negative health consequences. 

Special lighting systems in senior living communities and skilled nursing facilities can help maintain older adults’ circadian rhythms and create an environment that maintains both safety and sleep schedules.

Over the past few years, Salmon Health and Retirement’s campuses have installed customized lighting systems intended to help residents navigate spaces at night, reducing risks of falling down or falling off their sleep cycle.

“We talk about domino habits at Salmon,” Andrew Salmon, Salmon Health’s chief future officer, told McKnight’s Wednesday. “When we [envision a person’s time at Salmon], we look at it backwards and forwards. What do they need in order to have a good day? And good sleep?” 

A lot of older adults’ mood, behavior and cognition is the result of both short-term and long-term sleep habits, particularly for people living with Alzheimer’s disease, Salmon said.

If that weren’t challenging enough, sleep quality is a moving target among older adults, who naturally lose the ability to get slow-wave, or NREM sleep, and experience increased nighttime sleep disruptions, studies show.

Older adults even have a higher risk of heart attack and stroke the Monday after DST, according to a report last year from AARP.

For Salmon Health’s residents’ bathrooms, that means “softer, yellow” lighting, as opposed to LED lighting systems. It’s continually on, but at thresholds below what would disrupt circadian rhythms, Salmon explained.

The lighting is calibrated to change at various times during the day — both in residents’ rooms and common spaces such as bathrooms and dining rooms — to help support natural circadian rhythms in residents. 

Many senior living and care operators are looking into state-of-the-art lighting systems, although their priorities can differ. Some LED lighting systems are in place to help keep communities virus-free.

In another example, Nobi’s smart lamp systems are designed with monitoring technology and intended to prioritize fall reduction, the company told McKnight’s earlier this week.