Guide to Dementia-Friendly Signage

Function, Accessibility, Intuition

Dementia-Friendly Signage

Dementia-Friendly Signage


Nursing home signage and wayfinding for elderly homes is amongst the most challenging to get right. It requires an understanding of the needs of residents, staff and visitors with an emphasis on those who do not interpret signs and recall wayfinding in a typical way.

To compound this challenge, we must always remind ourselves that the elderly home is just that; a home. The design must compliment the aesthetic of the home and give a sense of homeliness. Further the construction must meet the requirements of a healthcare provider for hygiene and accessibility.

To achieve this, we combine highly accessible with beautifully designed signs tailored to the interior design of the home.

People whom experience dementia do not see or remember as we do. Contrasts can be unsettling, objects appear differently and lines and angles seem distorted. Disorientation is therefore common and can create anxiety in the resident. To achieve good wayfinding in a residential home we examine the overall residents experience as they interact with the buildings layout and characteristics, key landmarks, textures and graphics and signage.

Dementia friendly signage guide
This represents what a person with dementia may see when they look at a loved one.

1.High Contrast

The elderly and in particular dementia sufferers typically experience reduced sensitivity to contrast coupled with reduced peripheral vision, depth perception and visual acuity. To counter this we ensure that the signage to which we wish to draw attention has a high contrast. To achieve this we calculate the LRV (Light Reflective value) of the Text, Panel and Mounting surface (Typically door or wall) to ensure we have a contrast in excess of 70%.

Dementia friendly toilet wall sign with pictogram and high contrast

2.Low Contrast

Items that we do not wish to draw a residents attention to can be disguised or de-emphasised using low contrasts and large graphics.

3.Orientation

We use signage coupled with graphics and landmarks to aid recollection and wayfinding. This can be achieved using items such as clocks and paintings as well as through distinctive wayfinding and signage using colour codes. It can also be greatly enhanced using wall and door graphics. We often try to use imagery from local landmarks and surroundings such as coastal views or recognisable buildings.

Types of Signs


Bedroom Signs

Depending on our clients preference we alternate between fixed bedroom signage and flexible bedroom door signs. Where we use flexible signs we allow the home to tailor the bedroom signs for the resident using a template we design for their use. This can be with a picture of the resident or perhaps something meaningful for them. We recommend the flexible signs have fixed information such as the bedroom number to ensure consistency throughout the home for maintenance and regulatory purposes.

Identification Signs

Identification signs are used to tell a user what a certain location is. This can be a toilet, a sluice room, a bedroom or a closet. We recommend that a differentiated approach is used for identification signs. Residents signs(EG Living Room) should be of a high contrast, mounted at 1400mm to centre, using large pictures wherever possible. Signs that are intended for use by staff and visitors only (EG Kitchen, Visitor Toilets) should use medium contrasts and take a subtler approach blending into their environment.

Wayfinding Signs

Wayfinding in the nursing home should be undertaken using a prioritised approach that emphasises the most commonly sought facilities. Residents with memory ailments will require regular and prominent wayfinding to areas like the bathrooms, dining and lounge areas. less common areas like the hairdresser require less signage. By developing a hierarchy we can systematically ensure that key areas are easy to find from any location. We use our normal directional type signage to achieve this.

Warning Signs

Warning signs are often necessary to highlight risks to users. Where these signs are a risk for residents they should be clear and use colours that will be associated with danger. Text should be high contrast. Where the signs are aimed at visitors and staff, for example a ‘warning please close door behind you’ the signs should be medium contrast and not follow the design principles used for residents. We must also ensure all Part M  and fire safety requirements are met.