Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz said it right: “There’s no place like home”

As an Interior Designer I create interiors and transform homes that support my clients’ lifestyles. One category of my clients has a life style that has changed because of their age and cognitive issues. I am responsible for designing spaces that protect their health, safety and welfare by transforming their existing home so that they can stay in their home instead of a care home. The main goal is to make their home safe and comfortable for the future.

The population age 65 and over numbered 44.7 million in 2013, an increases of 8.8 million or 24.7% since 2003.

The cognitively challenged, research shows are more comfortable in their own surroundings given that their 5 senses light, vision, smell, taste and touch are engaged and their home has been professionally transformed. There are several areas that will need to be changed.

  • The pathways and hallways will need to be clear.
  • If there are wall-to-wall carpets, consider changing to tile or wood.
  • Wheelchairs if needed move easier on tile or wood.
  • Remove any throw rugs; it’s too easy to trip on them.
  • Get rid of all the clutter throughout the home.
  • Create a large open space in every room.
  • Consider the amount of space that a wheelchair needs to turn.
  • Where there are ‘step downs’, cover with bright reflective colored tape.
  • Contrast items in the home with highly saturated colors, not pastels.
  • Check the hand railings both inside and out to be sure they’re secure.
  • Be sure your shower has a non-slip mat and install a grab bar if needed.
  • Put night lights in bedrooms and bathrooms as well as pathways etc.
  • Install outdoor pathway lighting and a light at the door.
  • Seating in the main room should be firm, have a high seat and preferably arms to assist getting out of the seat. Be sure the chairs aren’t too soft or too low to the ground which could strand a person awkwardly.

Vision and lighting are very important. As we age our lens thickens and yellows which degrades our ability to differentiate between pale colors, they’re seen as gray. Astonishingly, most elder care residences use the pale colors which cause confusion and frustration for the aging when they need a clear demarcation between horizontal and vertical planes.

We humans need light, both natural and man-made. Our bodies use light to set our internal schedule of chemical secretions, circadian rhythms. Mood lighting creates shadows hence insecurity. All light intensity should be increased while keeping the brightness consistent. Task lighting is very important for reading and writing tasks.

Sundowning Syndrome is a psychological phenomenon associated with increased confusion and restlessness in patients with some forms of dementia. Behavioral problems occur in the evening when the sun is going down and closing the window coverings is one of the best solutions. There are lights that can help during the day and evening, such as “Happy Lites” by Verilux.

Glare on walls and floors can negatively impact people with cognitive issues. They can’t see the surfaces clearly due to the glare of excessive reflected light. As we age our eyes dilate and contract at a slower rate so looking repeatedly between dark and light causes disorientation.

This plan is not for ‘Old’ people, it’s for people who want to secure their quality of life and live it out in dignity while not being a burden to their family or community. If you haven’t retired yet, think about starting your plan now by hiring a professional to guide you through the process.

Written by Carol Carr, published by “Gilroy, Morgan Hill Today” 2016

Posted in


Share this post: