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The Importance of Color in Care Homes and Hospitals

Do you feel calmer when you’re in a room with walls that are painted blue? If you do, you’re not alone – studies show that blue is a calming color, and can even lower our heart rate and blood pressure. Do red walls energize you? That response is common, too. Whether it happens consciously or unconsciously, color can have a psychological impact on our moods and behaviors.

Color plays an especially important role for people living with dementia or Alzheimer’s in care homes or hospitals. From encouraging a calmer mood to helping residents find their way independently to the dining or recreation room, the color of walls, floors and other elements can have a big impact on quality of life and comfort in these types of settings. 

Certain colors – green, blue – are restful, and have a calming effect, when people are in rooms painted in these colors. Studies show that the color pink can help calm residents with aggressive tendencies. Reds are good for rooms where mental stimulation is encouraged, such as recreation rooms. Yellows and rosy tints are good for bathrooms, casting a flattering glow and boosting positivity.

Color can also be used to improve safety, security and mobility.

Using a contrasting color to highlight stairs, thresholds, doorways and other possible impediments makes them stand out, keeping residents safer. Something as simple as making the toilet seat a different color from the toilet can help patients with both dementia and visual impairments. The same goes for chairs, tables, etc. Furniture that contrasts from the walls and floors makes it easier to navigate through a room, and also highlights the function of the room, along with the tables and chairs.

Color can also be used to “hide” external doors, making them blend into walls, so that residents don’t mistakenly exit. Rooms can also be color-coded, with a different color used for the dining room, hallways, bathroom, bedrooms, etc., to help minimize confusion.

These color benefits can also be applied to hospitals and clinics.

Blues and greens, for example, can be very effective at calming nerves in wards and waiting rooms. Contrasting colors can be used to highlight specific elements – bathrooms, drinking fountains, information desks, parking areas, etc. And the design principles that make signage more visible and readable for care home clients can also help hospital visitors and patients find their way more easily.

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When it comes to choosing colors and design elements for healthcare environments, there’s a lot to consider beyond simply looking attractive. In our work with hospitals and care home providers, we begin with these steps:

  • Consider the needs of your target groups carefully. For example, patients with dementia or Alzheimer’s may or may not be able to read, so any wayfinding elements will need to be visual as well as in words. Same for hospitals – patients may not speak your local language(s), so signage needs to support any language limitations, as well as visual impairments.
  • Take the standard approach as your starting point, and build from there, adapting and customizing in order to fully support the needs of residents and visitors.

In our work creating house styles for hospitals and care homes, we take all of these aspects into consideration, and create design principles and wayfinding solutions that reflect the needs of all target groups.

If you’d like to learn more about design principles for care homes and hospitals, and our projects in this area, please contact Anne-Mie Vansteelant at Living Stone, at +32 55 591 007 or anne-mie.vansteelant@livingstone.eu.
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Resources

‘The Psychology of Colour,’ March 14, 2014, Building Better Healthcare, retrieved from https://www.buildingbetterhealthcare.co.uk/news/article_page/The_psychology_of_colour/95179

‘The importance of colour and contrast in dementia,’ May 6, 2015, UKS Mobility, retrieved from https://www.uksmobility.co.uk/blog/2015/05/the-importance-of-colour-and-contrast-in-dementia/

“Psychology Works” Fact Sheet: Environmental Adaptations to Dementia, Canadian Psychology Association, January 2009, retrieved from https://cpa.ca/docs/File/Publications/FactSheets/PsychologyWorksFactSheet_EnvironmentalAdaptationsToDementia.pdf

Nurlelawati Ab. Jalil, Rodzyah Mohd Yunus, Normahdiah S. Said, ‘Environmental Colour Impact upon Human Behaviour: A Review,’ Elsevier Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences, Volume 35, 2012, Pages 54-62, retrieved from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1877042812003746?via%3Dihub

Anne-Mie Vansteelant
Anne-Mie Vansteelant
COO | Managing Partner at Living Stone

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