Do Colors influence a Person inflicted with Dementia?
There are several studies on color and light related to designing Assisted living, Senior living or devoted Dementia care facilities. Assisted living care changes rapidly to meet the needs of Seniors. Senior living residences continuously innovate to how they will deliver care. As the population of residents with Dementia and Alzheimer’s continue to grow, senior living facilities are developing special care units to address their specific needs.
Main Line Flooring and Interiors is a specialty flooring distributor and installation contractor in the metro Philadelphia Pennsylvania, Delaware and South New Jersey region. We specialize in helping deliver the best flooring resources to assisted living and senior living environments. Here, we will discuss some flooring considerations needed to help those inflicted with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
Designing for dementia is not an ‘exact science’ in the sense that clear boundaries can be made as to which design is or is not suitable.
With that in mind, there is much research on the human associations of color and psychological mood. It is generally agreed that color associations depend on many personal, cultural and subjective factors. As such, take the following principles as a basic guide into the psychological affect from colors. It should be used with due deliberation.
How Colors Effect Our Perception and Mood
- Blues are believed to have a calming and restful effect.
- They are recommended for use in quiet rooms and bedrooms.
- Blue can be perceived as a “Cool” color.
- It can make a room appear larger.
- Green is associated with growth and life.
- It’s though to reduce central nervous system activity.
- It helps people feel calm.
- It is considered to be the most restful of colors.
- Like other “Cool” colors, it makes rooms appear larger.
- Red is associated with an increase brain wave activity and can stimulate the production of Adrenalin into the blood stream.
- As such, red is recommended for high activity areas and communal spaces where stimulation is required.
- It can increase the perceived temperature of a room. As such, it can be used in rooms that are considered “cool” to have a warming effect.
- Red can also make a room appear smaller.
- Is considered a “warm” color.
- Typically exude an energetic charge.
- Orange is closely related to red and shares some of its properties.
- It is an earth-base color and like green.
- Orange creates similar associations with nature and natural environments.
- Does not seem to have consistent effects on mood or the nervous system.
- Most likely this occurs because it is a combination of red and blue which are at opposite ends of the color spectrum.
- The color effects of purple are dependent on the shade.
- The colors create a sense of luxury, as well as creativity. Lighter purple color hues like a lavender or lilac offer calming effects similar to that of blue.
- Noteworthy, that unlike blue, light purple doesn’t create the “cold“, chilly feeling.
For a more detailed review of colors and the human response, click here to see white, black, pink, and yellow.
Please note: Too much use of any particular color can be overly stimulating, as well as under stimulating depending on the circumstance.
Just as individual colors affect stimulation and mood, the combination of multiple colors can affect stimulation and mood. Furthermore, the incorporation of contrasting or complementary colors can also have an effect.
Although color choice and dementia care is not an “exact science,” it is believed that the color preferences for individuals with dementia are red, blue and green.
For the affected individual who exhibits aggressive tendencies, try using pink in their personal space as it tends to ease aggression.
Natural Ageing, Dementia and Visual Perception
Many with Dementia will experience difficulties with their sight and perception as a result of their condition compounded by the natural ageing process. Difficulties with sight and perception can cause people to misinterpret the world around them. This further complicates matters considering the confusion and isolation they already feel.
The use of different colors, particularly those that contrast, has been proven to make life a little easier for dementia related and Alzheimer’s patients.
How do we Perceive Color?
Our perception of color is dependent on the pigment color of an object or surface and the way that object reflects light.
There are the three primary colors: red, yellow, and blue, and three secondary colors: orange, green, and purple. All of these colors vary along according to three dimensions: hue, value, and chroma:
- Hue: This is what we refer to as ‘color’ and is made up from one or more of the primary and secondary colors.
- Value: This is our perception of “lightness or darkness” of a specific color. Furthermore, “tint” is the lightness of a color when white is added, and “shade” is the darkness when black is added.
- Chroma: This is the brilliance or purity of a specific color. The “primary” colors have the brightest chroma and are considered the most brilliant.
Contrast between colors considers the primary and secondary colors incorporated with:
- Contrast of hue: For example, the contrast between blue and green;
- Contrast of “light” and “dark” when different “tints” and “shades” are used next to each other. This includes contrasts that have different values of the same hue (e.g., red and pink);
- Contrast of cold and warm: when colors with different “temperatures” are placed next to each other. For example, red a “warm” color and blue a “cool” color.
Light is also a vital part of our perception of color. The way we perceive color is a combination of the pigment color of an object or a surface in the environment. But, our perception is also effected by how that color (i.e., when exposed to light) reflects off that object or surface in that environment.
Now, that we have the science of color behind us, flooring and interior manufacturers have made our design decisions a little easier by grading their products relative to interactions with light.
Light Refection Values
Light reflection values (LRV) are important design tools for dementia environments. Combinations of various colors and products can be made by using identical or contrasting LRV’s. Since LRV’s are a universal measurement for all materials, the LRV’s for wall covering or furniture can be measured relative to the flooring design.
Color and Contrast
By incorporating the knowledge of perceived color, contrast and lighting we can better utilize our intention of design for Senior Living spaces and those with Dementia residents. Following are some practical guide lines for design:
Clear, Defined Edges and Boundaries are Best
The use of contrast is extremely important for marking edges or creating spacial boundaries that help by drawing attention to furniture or other tripping hazards. Contrast can also be used to help define objects more clearly. Using a color that contrasts to a background draws attention to key features. For example, we can use a contrasting wall color so that it can be easier to locate switches and sockets, as well as railings and handrails. Moreover, doors for bathrooms can be painted a different color than other rooms in the house for easier identification.
Avoid Prominent Patterns
People with dementia may perceive patterns and motifs as actual objects. For example a carpet with a pattern of white specks on a dark background may be distracting to a person with dementia. They may perceive the specks to be bits of tissue and want to ‘pick’ them up off the carpet. This phenomenon is referred to as the ‘trompe d’oeuil’ effect, where people are confused or tempted to try and pick design elements from the floor.
Avoid bold and prominent patterns. This includes patterns with large motifs and/or small patterns which are prominent because the motifs clearly contrast with the background color.
Avoid Prominent Contrasts
For a person with dementia, highly contrasting colors on the floor (e.g., like in a checker-board pattern) may be perceived to be changes in floor levels or “holes” in the ground.
Similarly, highly contrasting patterns on vertical surfaces may be perceived to be changes in depth, and so should be avoided.
Avoid Prominent Patterns that depict Movement
Bold patterns including stripes and zig-zag lines must be avoided as they could be perceived as moving objects.
Wood flooring with a prominent grain may also be distracting for a person with dementia.
Prominent color contrast can be used to foreground objects and add clarity and distinct boundaries to the environment.
Effects of Age and Sight
Bear in mind that due to natural thickening of the lens of the eye with age, seniors may experience colors as “washed out” and find blues, greens and purples harder to differentiate. Moreover, as we age many changes occur that effect vision and color perception. Usually, the thickening and yellowing of the lens alters the way color is perceived.
- A reduction in contrast perception ability, resulting in difficulty differentiating between subtle changes in the environment such as carpets and steps.
- A reduction in the perceived saturation or vividness of colors (i.e chroma). For example, some may find that red colors start to look like pink.
Additionally, color preferences can change, and the person with dementia experiences increasing sensitivity to all things, so it is necessary to create a balance throughout the journey of the disease.
Whatever the circumstances may be, it is imperative that designers for assisted living make it easier for someone with dementia or Alzheimer’s to understand depth and spacial orientation cues. The most important consideration is safety. We must design against injury from falls. Falls just don’t cause physical injury. They can also shatter the confidence of someone living with dementia and lead to a rapid physical and mental decline.
Main Line Floors and Interiors focuses on high end residential and commercial carpets and flooring. However, we have great products and installations for Builders, Multifamily, Senior Living and the Real Estate Investor / House Flipper. We proudly serve the Philadelphia, PA metro area, Delaware and South New Jersey region.
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