Two colours that appear contrasted to someone with normal vision may not be perceived well by those with sight deficiencies, colour deficits or dementia

Highly contrasting colour combinations can work well. Careful considerations of colour combinations are central to a designer’s accessibility palette. Colour has also been used within a design solution as a way of reinforcing positive personal connections and to provide stimulation within the space.

When designing for dementia, it is impor- tant to remember that we are all individuals and we all like different things, so this is why one scheme will work for one client but not for another. There is seldom a one size fits all approach. We know that up to 75 per cent of people over 75 will have vision problems. Research from Kingston University suggests that as our eyes age they become more opaque, so colours become ‘washed out’, making it harder for people to differentiate between different substrates. Designers can then compensate by using stronger or brighter colours than they might normally choose. Two colours that appear contrasted to someone with normal vision may not be perceived well by those with sight deficien- cies, colour deficits or dementia. While the effects of Alzheimer’s on colour perception are not yet understood, recognition time is notably faster if colour is used as a cue. There are some simple key design tips we consider when designing for dementia. These include using warmer hues to give


the impression of warmth, maintaining contrast in colours between the furniture and the floor to help highlight chairs, handrails and anything that could be an obstruction; feature walls opposite key entrances to help with navigation, and avoiding gloss finishes which can be off- putting to people living with dementia for fear of slipping. Equally, careful thought to lighting will prevent unevenly lit spaces, creating shadows that can be alarming to those with impaired vision. Within residential care homes, colour can have other benefits as well. Residents with dementia have for example, demonstrated more interest in food if it is served from coloured plates that have a large degree of contrast to the table surface. Colour can likewise be used to de-emphasise areas that have restricted access, such as back of house locations like offices, sluices and cleaning cupboards. In these cases, doors to exits or other zones, which are for staff only, are usually painted to match the surrounding wall colour, minimising standout and thereby reducing unauthorised access. Working with the BRE Trust, BRE, Loughborough University, Halsall Lloyd Partnerships and Liverpool John Moores University, Dulux Trade has supported the development of a demonstration home, Chris & Sally’s House, to present evidence- based design, adaptation and support solutions that allow people to ‘age well’ at home.

A summary of inclusive design advice has been gathered within the evidence-based Dulux Trade Dementia Friendly Colour Palette, developed specifically for care homes and buildings in the health sector. It is a useful tool in designing spaces for dementia that deliver significant benefits – not just for those living with the condition, but also for those who are caring for them.

Lisa Pilley is colour consultant at Dulux Trade


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