Why Gramma’s Got the Blues

The Old Apple Tree
The Old Apple Tree (Photo credit: fred1st)

Maybe a year ago, I installed a free app called FLUX on my computer, making that decision based on what little I knew about the role of light–especially light wavelength–on daily cycles of hormones and other essential biology related to day and night cycles. What the heck, it couldn’t hurt. It visibly changes the blue cast of my screen to a redder wavelength at local dusk.

And a year later, I realize losing the blues from my monitor at dusk was probably a more important choice than i realized: blue is the body’s wake-up call. Many of us get too little of it during days inside, and then sit in a flood of it, in front of our blue-emitting monitors, before bed time. This is especially an issue of concern for older eyes, because more and more research shows far less blue light penetrates older lenses.

Many of the complaints and ailments associated with aging, some particularly of recent increase like depression and insomnia in the elderly, very likely are related to the changes in balance between the slow-down hormone melatonin and the go-gettem hormone, cortisol. And the eye is the gatekeeper for these changes.

Aging of Eyes Is Blamed for Range of Health Woes

“In a study published in The British Journal of Ophthalmology, Dr. Mainster and Dr. Turner estimated that by age 45, the photoreceptors of the average adult receive just 50 percent of the light needed to fully stimulate the circadian system. By age 55, it dips to 37 percent, and by age 75, to a mere 17 percent.”

“…the same amount of light that makes a young person sit up in the morning, feel awake, have better memory retention and be in a better mood has no effect on older people.”

So enough light and enough of the right kind of light during the daytime may make a difference, so be sure your golden years are blue. Take your shirts off, all ya, an go sit in the sun and read a book and sip a glass of wine (heck, take the whole bottle–red, preferably, with those anti-oxidants that lower the guilt) and tell’em Fred said it was alright.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. F.lux Done! Norton approves. Thank you Fred. Here in South Fla, sun is easy. Wine, not my cup of tea, but British Blend and a good red-light e- book will be my test drive. My caregiving duties make sure I am well familiar with midnight hours. I’m looking to “sit up in the morning, feel awake, have better memory retention and be in a better mood” like the young folks at 6:45 AM. Yawn.

  2. Thanks Fred, I’ve added it to my computer. Although last nights wakefulness was because my two new foster pups, Newman and Redford were up on the bed playing King of the Hill, with me, under the covers, being the hill. After an hour they were ready for sleep and even got off the bed and into one crate, even though they each have their own and we all finally crashed.
    ps: Either of them would make a great companion for Ms. Gandy, check them out on the FCHS Facebook page.

  3. What brand new info for me and my old man. I will forward it to him and see what we can do about improving his circadian rhythm. Thanks !!!