Wayfinding helps people with dementia move independently from one spot to another. It refers to ‘what people see, what they think about and what they do when finding their way from one place to another’ (Brawley, 1997).

Wayfinding makes use of cues such as paths, garden beds, special plants, sculptures, colour schemes and sounds, both inside and outside a facility.

Effective wayfinding cues

  • Landmarks, for example a particular tree or garden bed
  • Interior and exterior neighbourhood decorating schemes
  • Sculpture, paintings and other decorative features
  • Planned architectural features, like personalised doorways
  • Changes in colour
  • Changes in lighting levels
  • Changes in floor surfaces
  • Determine meaningful ‘decision points’ where design features can help orient people with dementia (Netten, 1989).

Alzheimer’s Australia highlights the need to:

  • Keep signs simple as people may no longer be able to understand complex language or writing.
  • Place signs at eye level, for those using wheelchairs.
  • Use bright contrasting colours.
  • Personalise room entries to make them more relevant to individuals.
  • Create a regular schedule so daily life experiences are in the same place at the same time of day.
  • Create purpose-specific rooms so people know what to expect when they enter them.
  • Make key places such as dining rooms, bathrooms and living rooms easily seen.

Colour and wayfinding

Results from a recent study suggest use of vivid colour coding can improve short-term memory and improve ability. Older people find it increasingly hard to distinguish colours on the basis of hue and lightness. Colour choice is important if cues are to be read appropriately.