Creating a Better Living Environment for Residents

There’s a lot of psychology that goes into the design of marketing products and store layouts, drawing the consumer’s attention to different products, various shelving levels, or placing cheap, tempting items close to the register (i.e., “impulse buys”). Every product in the store has been designed and marketed to persuade your buying behavior.

A similar approach can be used in assisted living care, or other facilities which provide services to seniors, especially in memory care. Instead of inspiring residents to make purchases, carefully planned decor can make residents feel more comfortable and safe in their surroundings.

In the past, many facilities had used bland colors, similar to what you would find in a hospital. These neutral colors were thought to be non-offensive and less distracting, which they were, but sometimes tended toward bland. However, recent changes have been implemented in some memory care facilities that move away from mundane decor, and create environments that residents enjoy seeing and living in.

This doesn’t mean that anything goes; different designers have taken care in their choices of decor, including choosing colors and patterns that are not overly stimulating.

Mindful Designs

Designs for assisted living facilities should keep their main functional goals in mind, but there’s still plenty of room to add custom touches as well.

The design of common rooms should be open to flexibility, to accommodate different activities, gatherings, and special events like holiday parties or guest musicians.  These areas can also help build a bridge between the facility and the community, as an inviting space to bring in volunteers to engage with residents, put on performances, or other unique occasions.

At the same time, while it is nice to be able to rearrange furniture, it is useful for residents if those rearrangements are kept to a minimum, especially for those with cognitive or memory issues. Maintaining a familiar space can help avoid confusion, and even trips or falls.

Less is always more, especially in an assisted living environment. Rooms and common spaces should be clutter-free to help keep clear pathways and also reduce fall risks.

Color Coordinating

Attributes of the actual decor can also evoke positive (or negative) feelings and associations. Natural colors or colors associated with nature (brown/wood, green/foliage, yellow/earthy) are warmer and friendlier, while blues and greys tend to be cooler yet sophisticated.

Another thing to consider in color choice is that color/vision also tends to change as we age. Seniors see more yellow, and gray is often a common color used in institutional settings. It’s suggested that using greens and yellows can help enhance colors in seniors’ vision.

Bold or dramatic patterns are not typically the best for residents in an assisted living situation, as it may be overly stimulating. Subtle patterns, accent colors, and gentle contrasts are useful, however, and can help denote a transition or border from one room to the next.

Natural Lighting Benefits Everyone

When possible, take advantage of natural day light to brighten a room. Not only is it ‘friendlier,’ but it can physiologically help residents stick to a regular sleep cycle. Exposure to natural light could potentially increase exposure to Vitamin D, which encourages muscle movement, cell growth regulation, and helps the body absorb calcium – a crucial benefit in the fight against osteoporosis.

Using more natural light is also a cost-cutter in terms of electricity, a  financial beneficial to the facility as well – a benefit everyone can enjoy!

A Home Environment

Sticking to warm or lively colors can make the facility friendlier and more like home, which can have a positive effect on residents and their families alike. It can help the environment feel less institutionalized and more personal and therefore comforting.

Furniture should be comfy, but not too comfy; extra cushy chairs can be difficult for residents to climb out of. Firmer, supportive chairs at an appropriate height, for example, would be a better practicality.


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