COLOR: How We See Color As We Age

Margi Kyle

, Balanced Living

Our eyes change as we age

As we age, we see colors differently. The colors are not clean or clear. They are yellowed and look like an aged newspaper. The yellowing of the lens reduces its transparency, making it hard to discern some hues. It is a gradual process and not just because of cataracts. As we age, the cells in the retina that gave us normal color vision in our younger years decline as we age. Therefore, colors become less bright, and the contrast between different colors becomes less noticeable.

Sheen affects how we see color

In addition to age, sheen levels make a huge difference in how we see color.  If you use a high-gloss paint in the kitchen, you will see mostly glare.  On a floor, a shiny tile or marble will appear wet and slippery. You will be using a walker faster than you should be!

How the eye sees color as we age


This is what young eyes see.








This is what old eyes see.







Avoid combination pastel schemes

The facts can’t change, but how you use color can. Avoid combining pastels on the walls, carpet, furnishings, and flooring. Examples of combination pastel schemes are: powder blue and mint greens or soft yellows and peach colors. Those colors blend together in aging eyes. Because of the yellowing of the eye, those two pastel color combinations are not good. In general, we don’t see pastels very well anyway. But if there is no contrast, we don’t see anything.  If you use one of those pastel combinations in your living room, you might miss sitting on the sofa and end up on the floor.

Use rich, saturated colors

Wherever possible, use rich and saturated colors. But also note, navy blue can look very dark because, for some people, the pupil gets smaller. When creating a color scheme for the aging, make sure they live with the color decisions for at least 2-4 days and remain content. Color changes four times each day as follows:

  • Early morning is warm light.
  • Noon is cool lighting.
  • Afternoon around 5:00, color goes back to warm.
  • Evening we go to artificial lighting, referred to as metamerism.


Use contrast for aging eyes

So, what color schemes work best for the aging? Contrast of color! Use light hues on the walls and dark hues on surfaces (or vice versa) to aid in depth perception for sitting, walking, and preparing food. Make sure there is contrast with surface colors, or create contrast with throws and pillows. Keep your seniors safe from falls and broken hips using color contrast.

Another fact to understand is that men and woman see color differently. Women see reds in the blue tones, and men see reds in the yellow tones. As we age, men and women see reds the same way. So women, if you’re looking for a relationship, wear red lipstick in the yellow tones. Men don’t like the reds in the blue tones unless you are over 70!





Photo courtesy of Deborah Young Studio


For over 45 years, Margi Kyle, “The Color Doctor”, has built an astounding portfolio from the ever-important ‘Designer’s perspective’. Never idle, this Professional Interior Designer has contributed to this industry as an Interior Designer, Television Host, Mentor, Keynote Speaker, Educator, and Writer.  Margi has Taught Interior Design of over 45 years and is the executive director for We Make Color Easy, The Dewey Color System.  As well as one of the  founders of a new E-Mentoring Co-op Company called






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