The Role of Different Colors in Alzheimer’s and Dementia

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Why is it that some colors have the ability to either make us feel better or more depressed? Is it true that different hues have the potential to make us feel in completely different ways? The answer is “yes” in many different senses due to the fact that our brains perceive colors and hues in a variety of ways, with some having a significant influence on how we feel at any given instant while others have a more subtle influence.

Researchers have spent a lot of time and effort over the years looking into the impact that different colors have on the human brain and behavior.

The environment tremendously influences how persons with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias (ADRD) interact with it, how they respond to it, and how much enjoyment they get out of life. It is common practice for caregivers to look for helpful hints and strategies for behavior management. However, what if I said that the use of color could change and even help decrease behaviors connected with dementia? Let me clarify.

The findings of the numerous research that have been done on light and color have been somewhat varied. The majority of specialists, however, agree that the use of colors, particularly for a person with dementia, may assist in enhancing their quality of life.

So, in this article, we discuss the role different colors play in the lives of people with Alzheimer’s and Dementia.

How Does Aging Change the Perception of Colors?

How Does Aging Change the Perception of Colors

Have you ever looked at the color of anything in a way that really focused your attention on it? When we are young, we are taught that objects come in only four colors: red, yellow, green, and blue. However, in the actual world, there are thousands of distinct colors.

Have you also observed that the color of an object varies depending on whether it is seen indoors or outdoors? And is it possible to shift somewhat below a fluorescent light compared to when it is being viewed under natural light?

People with a loss of vision or dementia may benefit from using color and contrast to assist them in locating important objects and spaces.

There are changes that occur that affect the way we see and perceive colors as we get older. These changes are caused by the natural thickening of the eye lens, which occurs as we get older. For instance, one’s perception of color might be shifted as a result of the lens being more yellowed and thicker.

Therefore, when people become older, the following are some changes that may occur:

  • A decrease in the subject’s capacity to perceive contrast manifests itself as an inability to differentiate between minute differences in their surroundings, such as those presented by carpets and steps.
  • A dulling of the colors; for instance, reds begin to take on more of a pinkish appearance.
  • A diminished capacity to discern the differences between blue, green, and purple colors.

How do People Actually See Color?

The color that appears to the human eye is determined both by the pigments in the item and by the surrounding light.

Pigment colors are said to be “subtractive” because of the fact that, when combined, they produce a color that is very similar to black, sometimes known as the “absence of color.” Primary colors include red, yellow, and blue; secondary colors include green, orange, and purple. In addition, these hues may shift in three different dimensions.

The influence of light on our sense of color cannot be overstated. The pigment color of items and surfaces in the environment, as well as the colors in the light, which reflect off of the objects and surfaces in the environment, contribute to how we experience color.

Color Associations

Color Associations

Our brains are able to process colors far more rapidly than they can comprehend words. Let’s take a look at some colors and the reactions that are typically linked with them:

1. Red

When utilized appropriately, the color red has the power to inspire particular actions and responses from people. For example, according to research, the color red gives the impression that a room is hotter than it actually is. For instance, if a person frequently feels chilly even though the ambient temperature is already considered to be warm by others, they may attempt “warming” the room by using red comforters or pillows.

When applied to walls, the color red has the ability to make a room look smaller than it actually is. Additionally, if the color is applied high up on the wall, it may induce people to leave the area.

Last but not least, the color red has been shown to boost hunger in those living with dementia. Is the person you care about not getting enough to eat? You may try using a red dish to serve supper. A person with ADRD (Alzheimers disease related dementia) may experience as much as a 33 percent increase in their appetite when they eat their meals on red plates since this color has been found to stimulate hunger.

2. Blue

Blue is a hue commonly linked with tranquility and serenity (think of a clear sky or ocean), and studies have shown that exposure to blue can reduce anxiety and blood pressure. Not only can coloring a room blue provide a more soothing atmosphere, but it may also make the space look like it has greater volume.

A person who has ADRD may find that dark blue, as opposed to bright blue, helps them restrict their appetite. Offering meals on dark blue dishes has been shown in a few studies to reduce up to 28 percent of the amount of unnecessary overeating. So if a loved one in your life is overeating or a physician is pushing weight loss, consider providing meals on dark blue plates.

3. Green

Since ancient times, the color green has been linked to ideas pertaining to new beginnings and renewals. It has been demonstrated that the color green may lower the amount of activity in the central nervous system, resulting in a sensation of peace. Green is the color that is considered to be the most relaxing of all the colors.

Whenever painted on the walls of a smaller room, green, like red, can give the impression that the space is larger than it actually is. First and foremost, lime green is a hue that maintains its lively appearance even as it gets older. It has been demonstrated that the use of lime green is useful in drawing attention to significant individuals, locations, and objects.

For instance, several facilities have their caregivers wear lime green shirts to make themselves more immediately identifiable to residents who have ADRD. This enables the residents to receive assistance when they need it more quickly. You may make visual clues at home with the color lime green if you want to.

Like, if your loved one is able to operate a microwave but frequently forgets how to switch it on, you could try identifying the button with lime green tape. Similarly, if you want to lessen the risk of falls in the bathroom, you could try using a light green toilet seat to offer contrast.

4. Yellow

The color yellow stimulates the metabolism. In addition, research has shown that people are more likely to lose their temper in rooms that are yellow, despite the fact that yellow is generally thought of as a happy hue. Therefore, if a patient displays aggressive behavior, limiting the patient’s exposure to the color yellow may be beneficial.

5. Orange

It is similar to red in many ways, including the fact that it is a warm color and the close relationship between the two. Like the color green, it has a basis on earth, and people frequently associate it with the natural world and natural settings. It is connected to the ability to make friends and contentment. Orange clothing has been shown to increase enthusiasm as well as creative output.

6. Black

Suppose a loved one of yours has been diagnosed with Lewy Body Dementia. In that case, you should pay particular attention to the color black since people with this kind of dementia sometimes view black clothing worn from the knee down as frightening or menacing. According to this, wearing pants and shoes of a lighter hue may assist avert awkward encounters.

Be careful to inspect your front entrance mat as well since, if it is dark in color, your loved one may misinterpret it as a hole in the floor if it is there. Remove it and replace it with a mat of a lighter color that stands out against the areas around it.

7. Pink

A number of scholars have proposed that the color pink be used in settings where aggressive behavior has to be mitigated. Exposure to significant amounts of the color pink has been shown to have a soothing impact on people, which in turn helps to lessen feelings of hostility and wrath. This type of occurrence is commonly referred to as the “Pink Effect.”

It is recommended that the afflicted individual, who may be prone to aggressive behavior, experiment with using pink in their personal space since this color has a tendency to calm such tendencies.

Final Thoughts

It is important to remember that there is no such thing as a “good” or “bad” color in terms of dementia when considering the effect that color may or may not have on a person with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.

In a strict sense, there is no such thing as a “Good” or “Bad” color. It is natural for people to have a color or set of colors that they favor, and this trait is not necessarily altered by dementia. A person’s color preferences may shift as the disease develops, and so may that person’s ability to perceive colors as well.

When looking for solutions to the question of what colors those living with  dementia favor, it is important to keep in mind the importance of giving priority to the colors that an individual enjoys.

This is due to the fact that individuals will have varying tastes and preferences. Therefore, not only the rooms or the utensils may be decorated in the individual’s preferred colors, but other environmental components can also be.

It is advisable to include color in their clothing so that they feel happy whenever they are required to pick an outfit and dress up. This will allow them to feel good and positive about themselves.


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