Colour and light provide orientation for dementia patients

Perception and the world around changes as a result of dementia. The St. Elisabeth Foundation in Prenzlauer Berg now meets the needs of dementia patients in a special way. 

During refurbishment of the heritage-protected building the corridors of the residential area were designed for people suffering with dementia according to a milieu-specific colour and light concept, providing safety and orientation to residents. Places must be bright, and nothing should cause glare or shadowing as this immediately causes fear – those suffering from dementia see their surroundings differently and respond highly sensitively to light, shadows and colour.

The illness often comes hand-in-hand with a significant urge for movement, and if residents of a dementia home are able to move about in corridors freely and safely this contributes highly to their level of well-being. Such so-called milieu-therapeutic requirements were integrated by the Berlin architect Monika Holfeld into her colour and light concept, and implemented during upgrading of the dementia area in the

heritage-protected St. Elisabeth Foundation. At the start of the project the ceilings of the building were modified to comply with the latest fire protection regulations, and recessed LED luminaires were installed in the ceilings for glare-free and shadow-free illumination – although not flush to the ceiling but with a distance of three centimetres, making indirect lighting simultaneously possible.

With regard to perceived brightness, i.e. the luminance, how light is reflected from walls and floors is decisive in addition to levels of illuminance. Perception can also change according to colour and structure, and for this reason the architect specified very bright, warm colours for the walls and long corridors. Colour changes at corners or next to doors also help with orientation. The floor covering features a warm colour tone to suit, which also prevents a reduction in illuminance.

"It's important not to stress residents with irritants," explained Monika Holfeld. "It's possible to incite irritation and even fear if you work with the principle of "a lot helps a lot" in dementia homes.

This is the reason why the colour concept is structured into three clear areas. The main colours are used on the ceilings and walls while ancillary colours are used for the floor covering, doors and furniture. Accent colours are used in the form of colour strips nex

to the doors and for living accessories such as pictures and curtains, and these accent colours and pictures give residents important reference points when moving about.

The colour concept was placed in the right light with the Liventy Flat from TRILUX. The recessed LED luminaires with 4,000 Kelvin and a luminous efficiency of 111 lm per watt provides the requisite, increased lighting level with high energy efficiency that is ideal for people with dementia.

Project information

  1. Object:
    Stephanus Wohnen und Pflege, St. Elisabeth-Stift, Berlin-Prenzlauer Berg, Eberswalder Straße 17/18, 10437 Berlin
  2. Construction project:
    Refurbishment of a dementia home
  3. Implementation:
  4. Construction manager:
    STEPHANUS WOHNEN & PFLEGE, Facility Manager Roswitha Albrecht
  5. Architecture and colour design:
    Dipl.-Ing. Monika Holfeld, freelance architect
  6. Lighting system:
    TRILUX GmbH & Co. KG, Arnsberg