When we are born, the lens of our eyes actually begin to yellow. As we grow older, they continually become more yellow. By the time we are in our 70's, the lens becomes about the color of ginger.
If a young person puts a yellow filter over their eyes, they will see that the ability to distinguish between certain colors is very evident. Pastel colors, blues, greens, and light purples are hard to tell apart as compared to reds, yellows and oranges. Blues and greens are very difficult to decipher and darker colors become almost black.
Furthermore, if a person is looking through a yellow lens all of the time, then that yellow will start to cause problems on their nervous system. Spaces specified with yellow for an environment where older people will live or visit for long periods of time will actually cause the person to become more agitated and experience nervousness and anxiety without alleviation.
How can this inevitable problem be corrected? First, try not to use pastels throughout the entire space. If you do use pastels, alternate with more lively and saturated colors that have a balance of warm and cool tones. Balancing warm and cool tones creates a sense of comfort. Strong neutrals are more appropriate to use instead of the pastels pairing them with contrasting colors. Contrasting colors need to be specified where stairs are located, where floor-coverings meet walls, where seating can be distinguished from the floor color, where doors are located, and where handrails are installed.
Second, proper lighting is so important to use throughout the space. Day-lighting, ambient lighting and task lighting are crucial to the design. All three kinds of lighting should be used to give enough light to coincide with safety standards. Third, try not to use blues and greens together without a contrasting color. Also, dark colors are going to appear darker to the aging eye, so again proper lighting is the key to a great design.
Here are a few examples of color combinations that would be appropriate for an aging person's environment.