24 November 2014
How Good Design Can Help People with Sight Loss and Dementia
The environments we live in have a great impact on our psychological and physical wellbeing. This is especially true for older people, who may be living with sight loss or dementia. A welcoming, homely environment is essential to ensure people feel comfortable in their surroundings and can continue to enjoy their lives in the way they’re used to. In this article, we’ll look at a few design aspects used at Hallmark Care Homes to help those with sight loss or dementia.
Create a Familiar Environment
Moving away from a familiar home can be distressing for people living with dementia, as new, unfamiliar environments can be strange and confusing. As a result all our homes are designed with a homely feel in mind, with rooms made to look as they would in someone’s home. That means familiar seating arrangements, such as sofas positioned around a coffee table, and recognisable items on a mantelpiece such as a clock or other ornaments.
As people grow older, the lenses in their eyes get thicker, making things appear more yellow in colour. As a result, yellow, orange and red colours are easiest to see, and are useful to help older people locate light switches, hand rails, and other objects.
Contrasting colours also makes it much easier to identify a recognisable environment. For example, using vibrant, contrasting colours to better identify pieces of furniture, doorways and seating, helping residents make sense of their environments. Contrast between furniture and the floor through colour is also essential to help those with sight loss find a route through a room, giving them the confidence to stay mobile.
Avoid Shiny Flooring and Unusual Patterns
Excessively shiny flooring such as glossy vinyl flooring can cause confusion for those with sight loss. The problem with this kind of flooring is due to its reflective nature, it can look like a pool of water.
Patterns are another important consideration. For example, circle patterns could look like holes, pools of water, or piles of sand or soil on the ground. This can look confusing and may discourage people from walking in certain areas.
Our care homes make use of a lot of ‘home-like’ flooring types such as carpets, which help to create a more familiar environment, as well as helping to keep rooms and corridors feeling warm and inviting.
Ensure there’s Plenty of Light
Plenty of light is essential to help those with sight loss, ensuring they can identify objects and furniture with ease. Shadows can manipulate the look of objects and furniture which can cause confusion and distress for those living with dementia or sight loss. As a result we ensure all areas are well lit, both with ample natural light and strategically placed lighting.
Good Sound Insulation
For someone with dementia, unfamiliar surroundings can cause anxiety. Busy environments can further compound this, due to heightened sensory challenges typically found in busy areas. Sound is one of these sensory challenges, as people with dementia may have trouble hearing or understanding conversations when others are talking in the same room, if the TV is on, or they may feel anxious if there are unfamiliar or loud noises present.
Good sound insulation can be used to combat this and bring down background noise levels. For example, in large rooms we avoid using excessive hard surfaces such as tiled floors, which produce an echo because they’re unable to break up sound ways. Our care homes make ample use of soft fittings and furnishings such as carpets in halls and bedrooms to help deaden the sound, as well as creating a more homely environment.
Avoiding Trip Hazards
As people age their mobility can become reduced, making it harder to traverse hazards such as rugs, narrow spaces or slippery surfaces. As a result, we make sure all our care homes have no dangerous trip hazards and provide ample room for less mobile people to move about without the risk of a fall.
Using Seating to Increase Independence
Believe it or not, offering more seating areas around a home actually gives older people more independence to move about. That’s because visible seating areas dispersed around a home reassures people with mobility issues that there are rest stops along the way, giving them the confidence to move around the home themselves without getting stuck. These seating areas can also be used to provide familiar way-points thanks to contrasting colours, assisting with navigation.
Good design is not only useful for creating a welcoming environment for those with dementia or sight loss, it also ensures safety, taking into account that perceptions of peoples’ surroundings change with age.
To find out more, why not come and visit one of our care homes across England and Wales?