September 11, 2023
As Kendal at Oberlin celebrates 30 years, innovation continues to light the way for the community. With new technology and a focus on healthy aging, Kendal is shining the spotlight on light.
Outdoor lighting for the 110-acre campus is being updated with environmentally friendly and security conscious fixtures. Indoor lighting in sections of the Stephens Care Center is being replaced with circadian lighting that promotes health.
“I think this is cutting edge. The new lighting is meaningful to the environment and to the people who reside at Kendal,” says Rey Carrion, Director of Facility Services.
The effort to reduce light pollution is being spearheaded by Terry McGowan, a lighting engineer who moved to Kendal in 2019. Outdoor lighting can confuse and kill migratory birds, disrupt our biological clocks and waste energy and money.
So far, about 10 percent of the campus has been updated with energy-efficient, shielded outdoor lighting, with 18-foot poles in parking lots and low “bollard” fixtures along pedestrian pathways. “We were careful to mount the bollard fixtures so they would not be glaring even for people in wheelchairs, and I haven’t heard one complaint,” Terry says.
Kendal aims to eventually replace all outdoor lighting so it can be certified as a “dark sky” community by the International Dark-Sky Association. Ohio has only two IDA-certified Dark Sky places and there are no Life Plan Communities on the international list. “I’d love to make Kendal the first,” he says.
In addition to financial support from Kendal, lighting initiatives have received backing from the City of Oberlin Sustainable Reserve Fund ($43,500) and the Oberlin College Green Edge Fund ($7,500).
Lighting innovation is included in the renovation of the Stephens Care Center as part of the Kendal Master Plan. Circadian lighting provides abundant light during the daytime, with low levels of “warm” light in the evening and dim or no light at night so the body stays in sync with its natural 24-hour cycle. In senior living communities, the challenge is minimizing glare since older eyes not only need more light to see but are also more sensitive to glare. When the renovation is complete in early 2024, the dining and recreational and leisure areas will feature circadian lighting.
An advantage of both lighting projects is controllability. Newer controls that provide the right amount of light at the right time are essential to match residents’ day-to-day lives on campus and time of day.
Educating residents about lighting issues and aging eyes is a focus at Kendal. Terry has led talks on the topic and shared the booklet “Lighting Your Way To Better Vision,” a free download from the Illuminating Engineering Society (https://store.ies.org/product/lighting-your-way-to-better-vision/). It addresses the practical problems of adapting lighting – indoors and out – to meet the needs of older people.
“As we age, our eyes need more light and less glare for good vision. But the good news is that new types of light sources and systems are improving the quality of lighting even outdoors where shielded and controlled light is reducing light pollution and glare,” Terry says.