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The power of interior design to aid well-being in dementia environments

Posted on Wed 16th Jan, 2019 in: Dementia DesignDementia Friendly Environments

dementia design


The theories of how good interior design can have a positive effect on well-being is well documented. A recent article here on the Barbour website gives an overview of how aspects such as colour, lighting, acoustics and furniture can influence the space’s occupants, in either a positive or negative way: some colours can visually stimulate but others can overwhelm; light can improve mood but too much or too little can be counter-productive.


This can be true of any space, and the principals have particularly been applied in work environments, where the outcomes can be improved job satisfaction, higher productivity and reduced absenteeism. It therefore follows that applying them to care environments, where people have additional needs, where they are fully resident and where people’s emotions are heightened, with depression and anxiety common, that interior design is something that can bring very positive benefits – if you get it right.


However, it is complex. If it was as simple as just painting the walls a certain colour, every care home and hospital would be doing it. It becomes especially difficult when creating spaces for people with dementia because they perceive things in a very different way. Theories also change over time as our understanding evolves. There was a time when wall murals used to re-create familiar scenes, such as a pub or outdoor space, may include images of bar stools or bus stops. We now know that this doesn’t work because often people with dementia would wait at the bus stop or try to sit on the stools. Even montage murals with lots of overlapping images of nostalgia can be too busy for someone with dementia to process. At the time they were thought to be the best thing to do and no doubt some of the theories common now could be de-bunked in years to come.


What this demonstrates is the importance of a collaborative process of care professionals and designers working together. You should also demand that the design/interior specialists that you work with keep their knowledge fresh and are up to date with the latest thinking on dementia design.


The rewards are worth the effort. Good dementia design can stimulate and encourage people to reminisce, it can aid wayfinding so they can feel comfortable in the space and find where they need to go and it can eliminate things that can cause distress such as pictures that cannot be processed or reflections, while providing alternatives so it’s not just about taking things away.


Care environments have a duty of care that extends beyond a person’s physical needs and good interior design is an important element in this.


If you would like to talk to us about enhancing your dementia space please call us on 01274 728831 or e-mail health@new-vision.co.uk.


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