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Guidance On Designing Flooring For Dementia

Emma Goulding, of Altro, discusses the importance of flooring in healing or therapeutic environments, notably in the growing area of dementia care:

THE UK has an ageing population – this year over 20m people will be over 60. As more people live longer, so too there is a rise in those with dementia. About 800,000 people are living with this condition in England and Wales, and this is set to double over the next 10 years.

We at Altro have been working with the University of Stirling’s renowned Dementia Services Development Centre (DSDC) to gain a greater understanding of how the physical environment impacts on those with dementia.

In addition to the changes that happen to us all as we get older – for example, changes to our sight that include loss of peripheral vision, colour vision changes, problems with glare and nearer images being blurred – people with dementia face additional challenges. This can mean:

• less ability to discriminate textures; Ishinysurfacesappearingwet;

• patterned surfaces causing illusions;

• dark surfaces and shadows appearing to be holes;

• less ability to see depth and contrast; and

• difficulty identifying and describing different objects.

Designing with these difficulties in mind can make a real difference for people with dementia as well as many other older people, removing someofthestress,frustrationandconfusion from everyday living, while reducing the risk of slips and trips. Learning to ‘see as others see’ is a principal piece of advice from the DSDC.

Flooring has a key role in dementia-friendly design. Practical measures include ensuring that different flooring types laid adjacent to each other blend as much as possible to avoid creating the appearance of a step. This can be done by keeping the Light Reflectance Values (LRVs) as close to each other as possible, and also making sure that threshold strips blend with the flooring.

Using safety flooring is also advised, but avoiding overly rough surfaces that could hurt feet. Flooring should be matt and without patterns, sparkles or speckling, as these can cause distraction or look like something to

pick up.

As with more generally accessible design, there should be good contrast between floors and walls, as well as between floors and furniture, especially table-tops and seats. Other advice from the DSDC includes providing brighter lighting than normal, designing a clearly defined spaceandusingstrongercolours.

This article has been reproduced from the Contract Flooring Journal website. You can find them at