Access to Nature Among Top Considerations When Designing Buildings for People with Dementia

Access to Nature Among Top Considerations When Designing Buildings for People with Dementia

Dementia is a serious medical condition, and it can be very difficult for both patients and caregivers to deal with. Some recent research has been looking into whether the environment dementia patients are kept in can contribute to a better prognosis for them. Early results are promising. Dementia patients who were allowed to live in an environment when they had ready access to natural settings, and could access safe paths and guides to keep them away from troublesome areas that could be hazardous, has significantly improved quality of life.

The finding is thought to center around how the dementia patients respond to an institutional setting. If there’s only buildings and other constructed structures around them, without anything natural to break up walls and concrete, that impacts their condition. Further, buildings themselves should be designed with better and greater use of color, signage, obvious landmark objects such as pictures or sculptures, and other cues that dementia patients can use to reassure themselves. Not just for peace of mind, but for the simple confidence of being able to better navigate through their environments with fewer mistakes.

The research points to three things to consider when designing a space for dementia patients. First, safety should be a priority. But don’t make patients feel lost in a maze of corridors, and keep park and outdoor settings readily available.

Key Points:

  • 1Unrestricted access to nature is a must for dementia patients.
  • 2Visual orientation clues are important for people with dementia trying to navigate around a facility.
  • 3Good lighting and color contrast are beneficial for dementia patients.
  • 4Buildings should be designed to help promote privacy and independence.


The study’s responses allowed researchers Lee Fisher and Erika Pärn to identify the three major issues for consideration when building homes for people with dementia; safety, wayfinding and access to nature and the outdoors.
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