Philadelphia Flooring Designs for those with Dementia.

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.

Senior Living Harmonious Natural Colors

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.
Assisted Living Flooring Trends with Greens and Blues


  • 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.
Assisted Living Flooring Trends Red


  • 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.

Assisted Living Lobby Modern Flooring Trends

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” Considerations

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.


Assisted Living Memory Care Flooring Transitions

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.

Feel free to leave a comment if this post was helpful or informative. I hope it was.

Thank you,

Main Line Floors & Interiors


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16 Replies to “Philadelphia Flooring Designs for those with Dementia.”

  1. This site is pretty comprehensive. Thank you. My father in law has been suffering from dementia in the form of Alzheimer’s. We was living with his wife in a small apartment until the need for assisted senior living was necessary. Within a short time he became very hostile especially toward the room and the care givers. So much so that he is no longer welcome at that facility. I wish more facilities look liked the projects you are on. Yet, what I found interesting was your color and perception comments. I think the next place he goes we will choose pink for his room as there are some poor ugly patterns in his current facility. He also suffers from poor depth perception too. I think that is a great idea to use distinguishing colors especially around stairs . What are your thoughts on furniture relative to the boundary discussion?
    Thanks again

    1. Jennevra,

      Thank you for your comment and compliment on our work & blog. I am sorry to hear that your father has Alzheimer’s related dementia. God bless you, your Father-in-law and your family. It’s a shame that he is suffering so much and has to change facilities. It’s amazing that the research and evidence based design supports that the color pink can have positive calming effects on those suffering with Alzheimer’s related dementia. Yes, with aging related vision problems related to perception, especially depth perception it is always best to outline and/or increase visual awareness of distinct or drastic boundaries like steps. We should all have those visual cues to guide us, but it is most important for senior living design. Furniture also should be incorporated into the design and depict highlighted edges or boundaries.

      Thank you again for your comment!!!

  2. This is really interesting. It never occurred to me that the colors of a building could influence the quality of life for those living with dementia and Alzheimers. I’ve seen nursing homes that can’t even be bothered to put a handicap button on their doors. It’s refreshing to see that others look to the comfort of their patients down to the coloring of the walls.

    1. Thank you for your response. Yes, color choice in flooring, walls, furniture and lighting all have an impact or “influence” on our quality of live. Especially, those suffering from Alzheimer’s related dementia and our seniors have the right to have environments specially designed for them. Hopefully, this trend or shift in accommodating our seniors will prevail past 2030 were 72 plus million Americans will be age 65.

      Thanks again for your comment!

  3. This is good information. I only know that I like bright colors and they lift my spirit. I love purple which represents royalty to me.

    But I would never have connected this train of thought to dementia. Even to choose which type and color of flooring to buy. You have provided some real good information and food for thought. I appreciate it.

    V. Pearl

    1. Thank you for commenting. Yes, purples are Regal!! Colors can “lift our spirits!” Interestingly, that dependent on the shade of Purples they create a sense of luxury as well as creativity. Moreover, they act like blues whereupon a lavender or a lilac color offers calming effects, but they do not create a “cold” or “chilly” feeling.

      Thanks again!!

  4. Not in my wildest dreams would I have thought that colors had an impact on dementia. Your article is very comprehensive and gives a very informative discussion on colors, contrast considerations and lighting.
    My parents have just recently moved into a nursing home and I have been appalled at how dreary and drab the hallways are. The use of color certainly has an impact on the residents there.
    Do you have any suggestions on how to approach nursing homes and share how they can use color to influence dementia ?
    Thank you,

    1. John,

      Thank you for your comments. Yes, color and patterns definitely have an impact on a senior living resident that has dementia. There is much evidence based design to support how color and perception of color effects mood. Believe it or not, there are still “dreary” places out there. Most likely, they will be forced to update their milieus quickly to keep up. Today, seniors have a broad choice of facilities. Over the past few decades, there has been a shift to create assisted living centers that focus both on the resident, as well as the provider to create a community focus. The operators have to keep up and over more amenities too. It is now driven by market demand. Take a look at some other blogs:

      I’ll look into colors that cause dementia.

      Thanks again!

  5. You really do know what you’re talking about. I like the scientific approach you use, al the research you must have done. I’m far from dementia (I hope) but I can understand how certain colors and patterns may affect the brain. I thought it was interesting because I heard one how red for example also breathes dominance. When a person goes in discussion with a red shirt his changes of winning the discussion improve significantly. Interesting..

    1. Thank you for your comment. Yes, colors and patterns are all around us even in nature. That’s why there are a lot of natural tones used in senior living design, but don’t forget colors do evoke feelings. Red used as a “power” tie is commonly used and accepted.I hope you appreciated it.

      Thanks again for the comment!

  6. Hey,

    Great article. Considering my parents are now in their seventies, we should start looking into upgrading their house with similar types of interiors. For one it would be more comfortable and it would also be a lot safer.

    Thank you for sharing and giving me some food for thought.

    All the best,


    1. Tom,

      Thank you for you comment. Yes, it’s never to early to consider safety in a senior’s home. Just this past Spring my mother, a very active 80 year old, fell and fractured her hip on a throw rug while sleep-walking.

      Thanks again!

  7. Very cool post and so very full of information. I’ve always liked the color blue. So many considerations for those with special needs. My granddaughter has auditory and sensory challenges which can lead to stressful breakdowns and outbursts. Pink for sure should help as well as blue. Great reading and learned quite a few things that I didn’t know before, so thank you!

    1. Cathie,

      Thank you for your comments and compliment. I write this blog to help those with special needs be more comfortable in their environment. I feel sad that your granddaughter has special challenges. One of my children is on the Autistic Spectrum and he has similar sensory challenges that can lead to breakdowns or outbursts too. Yes, I am a lover of blues. Blues are the shades of the sea and sky which is thought to induce feelings of calm and convey tranquility, serenity and peace. It is also the color associated with trust. Research shows that using blue in the physical environment can actually lower blood pressure, and that blue rooms are seemingly cooler than rooms painted in shades of red or orange. My son’s living areas and bedroom have resting blue hues that I hope are a sanctuary to him. But, yes isn’t that interesting that Pink has the same calming effect.

      Thanks again for your comments and best wishes!!!!

  8. I found this article both informative and interesting. My grandmother is suffering from dementia , and I want to do everything I can to help her through in the best way possible. To learn that blues are calming is awesome, because she tends to be very anxious, and I can easily decorate her surroundings in things that will help her.

    Thank you for such a thorough piece on such important information for many people.

    1. Babs,

      Thank you for your comment. Sorry, to learn about your grandmother’s dementia, but I am glad to know that you want to do everything you can to help her. Helping is the reason I write. Yes, many shades of blue having a calming effect. Blue is considered a restful color with a calming effect on your mood. Interestingly, blue instills confidence and inspires feelings of trust, loyalty, integrity and responsibility.

      Thank you again!!!

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