Changes to the body are inevitable as we get older, but did you know that many people loose the ability to distinguish colours as they age?

The eye structure changes – pupils may decrease in size and respond more slowly to darkness or bright light and the lens becomes yellowed and slightly cloudy. It looks like you are seeing the world through a yellow filter which affects the ability to distinguish colours such as blue from purple and yellow from green.


The cells in the retina are less sensitive to colour as we age which causes the colours to be less bright and the contrast between colours to be less noticeable. These changes affect the older person’s ability to see, distinguish, perceive and judge as they move through their environments. However, supporting this can be simple!

First we need to understand colour. Simply put, hue refers to the colour such as yellow, red or blue.  Saturation refers to the intensity of colour and relates to the extent of grey in the colour.  Brightness is the lightness (how close it is to white) or darkness of a colour (how close it is to black).


Use higher contrast hues to help delineate objects and surfaces. This needs to be done carefully so that a cue or assistance is provided to the older person rather than causing more problems.

For example, ensuring suitable contrast between the floor and the start of the cabinet helps an older person see where the edges are and where the start and finish points are. A light carpet adjacent to a dark mat is not helpful as an older person with visual or cognitive difficulty can perceive this as a hole.





A higher saturation will help the older person perceive the ‘real’ colour, as seen in these examples. Brightness needs to be considered carefully as too bright can be garish and uncomfortable to look at for long periods, see examples left. Using colour to create enabling environments for older people is both an art and science.  Your friendly interior designer with expertise in this area can help.


Until then why not have a go at seeing how well you can see colour?

Try the


Thank you to our Guest Contributors deFiddes Design, a unique, multidisciplinary practice, designing interior environments for aged care, dementia and retirement living. Operating in Western Australia for over 25 years the team has extended their focus of business into other areas such as Education, Training and Research.

deFiddes Design is committed to being at the forefront of innovative design and keeping up to date with the latest research, knowledge and cutting edge technology, especially in respect to memory care.

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