The importance of wayfinding in memory care settings

You can build new or remodel to meet projected demand

We know the wave of baby boomers is coming, and with them, an increased need for memory care settings with appropriate wayfinding. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that 20% of the population in the states will be 65 and older by 2030. And the Alzheimer’s Association reports that about 5 million adults already live with some form of dementia. More, by the year 2050, estimates indicate there will be almost 14 million Americans with Alzheimer’s alone — that’s aside from other forms of dementia.

Whether you currently own or manage memory care settings or are thinking of transitioning into memory care, building anew or renovating an existing senior living facility to serve your memory care residents better, wayfinding is an essential component of your plans.

Why is wayfinding so important? As dementia progresses, individuals can begin to experience memory impairment and spatial orientation difficulties that make it uniquely challenging to navigate from one location to another. Easier navigation can be achieved for these individuals through the thoughtful use of environmental cues and landmarks in memory care settings.

Design solutions to assist in memory care facility wayfinding

Many proven solutions can help residents with wayfinding in memory care facilities, many of which can be implemented through remodeling existing facilities. To assist residents in wayfinding, it’s important to consider visual cues that appear at decision-making points, such as hallways, doorways and more. By giving careful consideration to incorporating recognizable objects or design components, you can more clearly support an individual’s building orientation. Working with a design-build team can ensure that all of these particular considerations are carefully measured, communicated and understood by the entire team of commercial design and construction experts, avoiding the need for costly redesign and/or rework down the road.

Sign sense

Signage plays an important role in any building, and in memory care facilities, it’s even more essential. For residents with dementia, certain signage types may work better than others, and effective signage often includes pictorial elements and typography that considers legibility. Word choice itself has proven to make a difference, too (e.g., using the term “toilet” rather than “bathroom,” along with a picture of a toilet). Sign placement is also an essential consideration for assisting those with dementia in finding their way.

Light the way

 Lighting contributes much to a building’s interior, including ambiance, simplicity in wayfinding and even potentially therapeutic benefits for those in memory care. For residents who cannot spend much time outside, incorporating design elements that allow for a mix of natural and artificial light can not only assist with orientation but help residents with low vision in particular. Light also plays a vital role in ensuring residents get the rest and stimulation they need. Certain types of light, such as spotlights and other lighting that creates harsh shadows, can be particularly confusing to those with dementia and should be avoided. Thoughtful selection of window treatments can maximize natural light and help create a welcoming, pleasant environment.

Flooring finds

Flooring choices play an important role in navigation, so mindful selection of materials and flooring techniques is especially important for memory care facilities. Flooring transitions that blend in with the flooring itself can create a sense of flow while contrasting flooring and flooring with busy patterns can lead to disorientation. Warm color tones are preferable for those with dementia or low eyesight, as they’re easier to see. Consideration should also be given to flooring options that may reduce the potential for slips and falls.

Color and contrast considerations

Research shows the eye’s perception of color can change over time and decrease for aging residents. That means telling the difference between shades can become much more difficult. Color cues and color-coding require working closely with your architects and designers to properly address wayfinding needs for those who are visually impaired and those who are not. Research shows that contrast is an especially important element for wayfinding in memory care settings, with attention given to contrast between walls and ceilings, flooring and furniture. Paints with a flat finish can significantly benefit those in memory care settings by minimizing glare and reflections, which can be disorienting.

Ready for wayfinding guidance in your memory care facility?

 When it’s time to talk about wayfinding for your memory care facility, whether you’re starting from the ground up or looking to renovate, the design-build model of construction can make all the difference. With design-build, commercial design and construction experts operate on the same team, working toward a shared vision. Your project success becomes everyone’s priority, no matter what role they play in the process. Contact us to learn more about how we can help you maximize wayfinding in your memory care facility.