Flooring for Dementia-Friendly Environments

Several million Americans are suffering from dementia for which there is as yet no known prevention or cure. For people living with dementia, a slip, trip or fall can seriously impede their physical health as well as their confidence and mobility. Flooring has an important role in creating a safe environment. 

The Dementia Services Development Centre of the University of Stirling in Scotland has established some guidelines for dementia-friendly flooring. Here are some do’s:

Develop one tonally continuous flooring surface

Aim to reduce impact sound

Avoid sensory overload

Avoid sparkle and pattern

Provide good tonal transition between floors

and some don’ts:

Don’t use patterned floors

Don’t use sparkly floors (perceived as a wet surface/slip risk)

Don’t use flecked floors (may be perceived as something to pick up)

Don’t use logos or brands graphics (perceived as an obstacle)

Don’t use any flooring with a high gloss or shiny finish (also perceived as being slippery)

Don’t use aluminum or brass reflective trims or transitions (can cause high-stepping)

Flooring with a matte appearance should be used throughout. It’s apparent that the reflectance of light is important to perception of gloss or shine. This is expressed as the Light Reflectance Value, or LRV, which can range from 0 to 100. It is measured by shining light on a sample and measuring the light reflected from the sample. Safety Direct America can conduct this test for you in our laboratory or (COVID risk permitting) in the field. The LRV of flooring, walls, doors, etc. is important. The LRV of flooring should be at least 30 units different from the wall color. 

Areas that can may get wet in use (bathrooms, toilet rooms, showers, kitchens) must have surfaces that are slip-resistant when wet. Safety Direct America provides outstanding lab and field test services to assess slip resistance. The Sustainable Slip Resistance test assesses not just what the slip resistance of a flooring sample will be when installed, but what it is likely to be after an economically reasonable lifetime. 

Additional information is on the Dementia Services Development Centre’s web site, and they are available for paid consulting.

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