How good design can help people with sight loss and dementia

Lighting in drawer
Lighting in drawers can help older people to navigate their homes

This is a guest blog from Sue Cooper, media advisor at Thomas Pocklington Trust. Sue shares with us new insights into how to improve the independence of people with dementia and sight loss.

New advice was published last month on ways to make our homes – whether private homes or care homes – easier and safer to live in for older people.

Practical design guidelines  show how choices in design – from the colours of the walls to the type of flooring and curtains; the choice of cupboard doors and handles, and other fixtures and fittings – can help older people to navigate their homes and carry out daily tasks more easily.

Contrast toilet seat and grabrails
Contrast toilet seat and grabrails

Research commissioned by Thomas Pocklington Trust and carried out by Stirling University looked particularly at the difficulties experienced by older people with sight loss and dementia – two conditions which are both linked to ageing.

It combined scientific evidence with the everyday work and personal experiences of professionals, care homes and people with sight loss and dementia and came up with tried and tested tips that could support older people’s independence.

The guidelines are arranged so that people can choose which of the ideas will best work for their individual needs.  Tips include:

  • Care homes can reduce disorientating noise levels by fitting sound absorbers.
  • Red, orange and yellow are the easiest colours for older people to see because the lens in the eye thickens as we age, making things appear more yellow.  Furniture, hand rails, light switches and other fittings, such as toilet seats, will stand out clearly in these colours, making them easier to locate.
  • Curtains that are draped or gathered can obscure natural light so choose a style that covers as little of the window as possible.
  • Avoid shiny vinyl flooring as a glossy finish can look like a pool of water to people with sight loss and dementia.
  • Modern taps that rely on sensors can be distressing for people with dementia who often struggle to make sense of the environment.  Old-fashioned ‘turn-on’ taps are easier to understand and operate.

For print or audio versions of the guidelines, please contact Stirling University 01786 467740 or Thomas Pocklington Trust on 020 8995 0880.

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