What should I consider when specifying flooring for dementia?

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    Dementia Research 2018 – From Dementia Services Development Centre (DSDC), Stirling University


    “Age-related changes and impairments can make it more difficult to understand and navigate the built environment. Impairments may include sensory (visual, acoustic, etc), mobility or cognitive restrictions (or sometimes a combination of them all) which can affect people’s functioning, behavior, independence and ultimately, their quality of life.” (Forbo, 2018)

    Light reflectance values (LRV)

    Light reflectance values (LRV) are very important in designing environments for people living with dementia. This is because LRV can affect both mood and way-finding. Dementia patients can experience anxiety crossing a visible line, this can go as far as preventing a patient from being able to cross. Contrast sensitivity is a common visual issue; to be clear, high-level contrast is one of the most important factors. LRVs determine good visual contrasts between adjacent materials. Contrast is critical between junctions such as between floors and walls, and walls and doors. BS 8300 has information on this in its 2018 update. Using DSDC guidelines, Quantum Flooring Solutions has identified a number of do and don’t scenarios to help specifiers select suitable flooring accessory profiles in the design process.

    Dementia Friendly Flooring Accessories – Tonal Contrast Selection Guidelines

    • Tonal contrast is critical to differentiate materials from each other.
    • Adjoining flooring should be tonally similar, to reduce the risk of falls.
    • Flooring LRVs should be within 10 degrees of each other.
    • Transition strips should match the tones of both flooring surfaces, with an ideal LRV difference of no more than 10 degrees.
    • Skirtings should also contrast with both the wall and the door where possible.
    • Both DSDC and BS 8300:2018 recommend a difference of 30 degrees of LRV between critical surfaces such as floors to walls, doors to walls, floors to steps or stairs, and on stair or step noses.

    Do’s and Don’ts


    • Develop one tonally continuous flooring surface
    • Aim to reduce impact sound – limits distractions
    • Avoid sensory overload – simple is safe
    • Avoid sparkle and patterns – avoids visual confusion
    • Opt for matt finishes – less likelihood of glare
    • Provide good tonal transition between floors – this will avoid visual confusion when going from room to room
    • Provide clear contrast on the nose of steps and stairs – this clearly identifies the steps for the partially sighted


    • Don’t use patterns
    • Don’t use sparkly transitions – it may be perceived as a wet surface / slip risk
    • Don’t use flecked transitions – it may be perceived that there is something to pick up
    • Don’t use logos or brands – they can be perceived as an obstacle
    • Don’t use any flooring with a high gloss or shiny finish – also perceived as being slippy
    • Don’t use aluminum or brass reflective trims or transitions – could cause high-stepping


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