Smart Color Choices to Make Seniors Safe at Home.
Updated: Apr 21
You’ve thought about making changes to the colors in your home or your helping your older adult parent with a refresh. You’ve probably focused on which colors are aesthetically pleasing and may have read an article or watched an HGTV episode to learn about interior design color trends. However, when designing spaces for older adults, it’s a different ballgame. Aesthetics are certainly part of it, but there’s a lot more to consider. Our eyes are aging just like the rest of us and this can impact how we interact in our everyday lives. We’re reminded of this every time we have to pull out our reading glasses to see a menu.
Seeing the world through yellow-colored lenses.
Just like paper yellows with age, so do the lenses of our eyes, affecting the way we see color. It’s like looking at the world through yellow-colored glasses. This makes it more difficult to see the differences between blue, green and violet. Yellow surfaces may also appear to be white.
Colors may seem more dull and it may be more difficult determining depth. That’s why older adults need clearly contrasting colors to differentiate changes in surfaces. One study discovered that 75-year-olds require twice as much contrast as their younger counterparts. By age 90, they can require three times as much contrast.
Pastels, which have been popular in senior housing and health care environments for decades, are actually among the most difficult colors for older adults because of the lack of contrast. All colors of this cool hue can appear grey. Brighter colors on the warm end of the spectrum, like red and gold, are much better for contrast.
Sensitivities for those with dementia.
If you’re creating a space for someone with dementia issues, color choice takes on more significance. For these people, very dark colors, especially black, may be perceived as a hole or missing space. Intensity is also an important consideration. Intense colors create a visual vibration that is unsettling for those with memory issues. Busy patterns and those with high contrast may look like they’re moving or make the individual feel dizzy. Solid colors in softer shades are generally the best option for these folks.
No matter what color you ultimately decide on, creating contrast between surfaces is the most significant way you can make life easier for an older adult. Paint doors, door frames, and light switch covers to contrast from the wall color. Make sure that the color of tabletops can be easily differentiated from the floor. Clearly differentiated color between the wall, window coverings, floor, and major pieces of furniture will make it much easier for those with vision challenges to navigate in their space and feel safe at home.