Tips for colour selection

  • Colour awakens emotional responses related to past experiences and cultural background.
  • Colour can be used to increase and reduce visibility.
  • Colour contrast and good lighting help people's navigation, orientation, mobility, independence and involvement.
  • Too many colours together can be distracting.
  • Older people can best discriminate intense colours at the warm end of the spectrum.
  • Colours with a high degree of brightness, such as yellow, are apparent.
  • Colours such as peach, coral and soft apricot tones flatter skin tones and add warmth to any setting.
  • Pastel blues and lavenders are problematic for older people and often look grey.
  • People with colour vision issues are less sensitive to colours on either end of the colour spectrum. Reds and blues will look darker.
  • As colour preferences are personal, giving people the chance to personalise private spaces is essential.

Effective colour contrasts

Older people need about three times as much contrast as younger people to find objects. Choose colours of significant difference.

Combine light colours from the middle of the spectrum, for example, yellow or green, with dark colours from either end of the spectrum, for example, red or blue, to produce the most effective contrasts. Do not combine dark green against bright red, yellow against white, blue against green, or lavender against pink.

Camouflaging with colour

Colour can be used to make objects more visible or hide or camouflage them. Choosing background colours similar to the colour of things in the foreground can make objects invisible to a person with dementia.

Colour and lighting

Lighting helps in effective colour contrast. The amount of natural daylight should affect the choice of colours as different light sources change the colour. Carpet, wall colour, fabrics, furniture and accessories look much brighter in direct daylight than under artificial light. Test your colour choices in day and evening light where they are to be used. 

Colour rendering

Colour rendering means how true colours look under a given light source. How colour looks under daylight is seen as true and accurate. Light sources are compared to sunlight through a Colour Rendering Index. The Colour Rendering Index for lamps uses 100 as the number for light most closely resembling typical daylight. A bulb with a number of 80 or higher can provide a reasonably accurate colour rendering. The temperature of the light source is also a measure of colour rendering, with degrees Kelvin being the standard measure. The higher the temperature, the cooler the light and the closer to daylight. The recommended light rating that simulates daylight conditions or incandescent lighting is 3000–3500 degrees, Kelvin.

Colour and wayfinding

The use of colour in wayfinding is most important. Using colour and creating colour contrasts helps people to move about more confidently, reducing confusion and agitation.

Understanding what you do well in your facility and identifying where you could improve is a good start to developing strategies for the use of colour.

  • When selecting colours, consider age, gender, cultural background, religious or spiritual needs, and socio-economic circumstances of people with dementia and families.
  • Create up to five colour swatches from which new residents and families can choose their preferred colour scheme for bedrooms, ideally including fabric, wallpaper and paint samples.
  • Think about staff preferences for colours in staff areas.
  • Select the colour of more expensive items, such as furniture and furnishings, before selecting paint, which is less costly and easier to change.
  • Increase colour contrast between furniture and walls to increase visibility.
  • Provide effective colour contrasting throughout a facility, unless wanting to minimise visibility.
  • Select colours that allow for ageing vision and visual ability.
  • Combine light colours, such as yellow or green, with dark colours, such as red or blue, to produce the most effective contrasts.
  • Avoid dark green against bright red, yellow against white, blue against green, and lavender against pink.
  • Test colour samples under proposed lighting conditions to verify how they will appear.
  • Provide good lighting to enhance your colour scheme. 

Colour in dining areas

  • Add colour contrasting edges to tables to increase visibility.
  • Use placemats that colour contrast with table tops, plates and utensils.
  • Select cups and plates with colour contrasting rims or edges to improve visibility.
  • Contrast plates, utensils and containers in colour or brightness against table cloths.
  • Encourage skilful use of colour on white plates to make food easier to see and eat.
  • Use precise, high colour contrast print appropriate size on menu cards and place cards where used.

Colour in bathrooms

  • Colour contrast toilet seats with toilet bowls and floor.
  • Use warm peach-coloured tones that flatter skin tones.

Colour combinations for effective colour contrasts are light colours against black, dark colours against white, pale yellow against dark blue, and light green against dark red.

The healthcare industry has many challenges, and dealing with dementia patients is more challenging than most. When choosing your next aged care uniform, please consider the research currently being done into colours and patterns for uniforms in Australia and in countries like the US, Canada and Europe. Talk to Infectious so we can help you choose the best medical uniform for your healthcare team. When buying uniforms, you should consider the colour of your facility logo and workers' names and designations.

Call the Infectious Sales Team on 1300 661 475 option two or drop in to see our options for aged care uniforms at our Sunshine Coast showroom and retail shop.

Infectious Clothing Company

19/24 Hoopers Road

Kunda Park,

Queensland, 4556


Infectious is a national supplier of uniforms specialising in Healthcare and Corporate Wear and everything in between.