The Best Colors for the Elderly

Written by bonnie ross coleman
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The Best Colors for the Elderly
Colours and brightness change as a person ages. (BananaStock/BananaStock/Getty Images)

As people age, their eyes also undergo changes. The lens and cornea begin to yellow and darken, and the pupils shrink in size. The ageing eye also changes to have a high degree of light scatter as cataracts form, and the field of vision becomes limited. For this reason the colours that are chosen for the elderly should remove any yellowing and brightness since the eyes of a 60-year-old can only filter a third of someone age 20.

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Distinguishing Colors

Elderly persons may have difficulty distinguishing between colours. They need three times the amount of light to see, but are sensitive to glare. Colours such as red, green, yellow or blue will appear muted to the elderly eye. Colours should be used that provide a high contrast, such as white plates and a dark coloured table cloth. Chair seats should contrast with the floor to make the edge of the chair more visible. The same is true for bathroom fixtures contrasting with walls and the floor so they are very visible.

Colour Choices for the Elderly

When people age they may experience feelings of loneliness and fearfulness. Using colours that are warm and promote security and harmony are important. When painting walls and decorating a room the colours that are used can have a positive effect on the mind and mood of elderly populations. Using a variety of colours can keep cognitive abilities functioning. Using soft blues, violets and lavender can make the elderly person connect to a spiritual or reflective mood.

Bright Colors

Using bright colours when designing for the elderly will help with acuity loss. While older people may like pastels, the colours may not be bright enough for elderly eyes. Softer shades of red or orange will help improve energy levels and circulation. Peach colour, warm tans and apricot, terra cota and pink work well with elderly eyes. Studies done in nursing homes show that soft pinky-beiges contrasted with soft blue/greens were peaceful and emotionally supporting.

Colours Can Help Elderly Populations

Using floral patterns can evoke pleasant memories in elderly populations, as it will remind them of a calmer, simpler rural life.

Even the colour of medications can help elderly persons remember to take them. Researchers are studying the effect of colouring the pills to the condition, for example red pills for heart medication, and a calming blue pill for pain medication. Seniors who take a lot of prescription medications can use familiar colours and shapes to keep the doses correct.

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