In a study conducted by Rizzo et al. (2000) on elderly subjects with and without Alzheimer’s disease, the tests results on sensitivity, visual attention and color for those with the disease were revealed to be significantly worse than those without the disease. The studies conducted by Wijk et al. (1999, 2001) demonstrated a reduction in the ability to name colors. Both studies revealed a difficulty in differentiating colors in the blue/green range, while no difficulties in differentiating colors in the red/yellow range were reported. The value of color, that is to say the lightness or the darkness of the color, has been determined as the factor having a significant effect in differentiating between colors. The color preferences of both groups were independent of the disease. Both groups displayed a preference for blue, red and green respectively.
One of the most significant results obtained in these studies has been the determination that the value of color, in other words its degree of lightness or darkness, played an important role in differentiating between colors. In consideration of the foregoing it is possible to create environments suitable for dementia patients.
It is possible to create differences that would attract the attention of dementia patients by using colors in healthcare centers, facilities or the homes of these patients. For example, in areas with stairs or elevated surfaces, it is advisable to use dark colors to prevent falls.
Areas with more meaning to dementia patients should be emphasized instead of implementing general principles of design and emphasizing the background. Color emphasis needlessly implemented could cause confusion in dementia patients.
Walls that surround areas where patients cross from one place to another must be painted in high value colors and hues.
Areas populated by personnel could be lacking in these properties, and if you want the circulation of dementia patients limited to certain areas, you can arrange the value and hues of the colors accordingly in the areas where they spend their time and use similar colors in other areas.
Elderly people require three times more light but are more sensitive to brightness in comparison to young people. Dementia patients have difficulty in noticing the corners of objects due to the deficiency they experience in the perception of contrasts. This holds true especially if the hue and value of the color used in the background of the object are the same as its front. The colors used on the ceilings, walls and floors must be different than the colors of the objects. The color of the walls must not be the same as the color used on the toilet bowl or lid. Or the color of the wall must be different than the color of the cupboard to ensure the visibility of the cupboard on the wall. It would be difficult for dementia patients to notice a white toilet bowl surrounded by white walls.
Bright and strong colors could be effective in improving short term memory and functional skills. (Cernin, Keller & Stoner, 2003). According to studies, a sufficient amount of light and suitable colors are important to create supportive environments. The use of extra light and contrasting colors can ensure that residents of nursing homes find their way more easily (Noell-Waggoner, 2002). (Netten, 1989).