Fabric Design for Dementia

When designing for people with dementia, it’s essential to balance style and a sense of wellbeing with the need to avoid over-stimulance. Designing for dementia care presents important considerations which often provoke an overly conservative approach to choices in color and design. Over cautious or unimaginative design may not produce the most therapeutic or nurturing environments for the individual.

Under-stimulation can be as detrimental as over-stimulation. To offer guidance and advice on fabric selections to our clients, we sought assistance from the Dementia Services Development Centre at Stirling University in Scotland and we were delighted to establish guidelines with them on the use of fabrics in dementia care.

It’s no secret that choosing the right fabric can have a huge impact on an individual’s mood, security, comfort, and sense of wellbeing. This is especially the case when designing for people with dementia. The material that is chosen needs to reflect their personal identity and enhance their self-esteem and confidence. In addition, they should be completely comfortable in their own space and be able to recognise that they’re in a safe place.

As specialists in high-quality contract fabrics, we recognise that people with dementia are extremely unique when it comes to their likes, dislikes, concerns, worries, and the things that comfort them. What works for one person, will not necessarily work for another — there can be no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach. Because of this, instead of simply identifying what might be right or wrong with a fabric or pattern, it’s more useful to highlight the key features that you’ll need to be aware of. Our design for dementia guidelines do just that.

Guidelines of Features to Consider

The normal ageing process produces sensory losses such as visual impairment. This is of particular concern for those with Alzheimer’s or other dementias as they may not be able to understand why and therefore be unable to compensate for it. Good design helps them cope with this loss.

The elderly gradually lose the ability to discriminate between colors and this is exaggerated with dementia, so the use of contrasting colors within design is vital. Contrast seating with carpets, bedspreads and flooring, door handles from doors, light switches from walls, etc. Pale colours together (or a mass of dark shades) are difficult to discern by the visually impaired.

Look to add texture and semi-plains to create interest and, most importantly, select fabrics for seating which clearly contrast in color and shade with carpet colors to ensure that seating is clearly visible.

Key Considerations When Designing for People with Dementia


Lighting is paramount, particularly daylight which is natural and diffuses easily. Ensure that drapes are designed not to overlap the actual window and can be pulled right back to allow as much light in as possible.

Define edges

Simple things like contrasting piping on the edge of seating, on bedspreads at the edge of the bed or on the edge of draperies where they are pulled to and drawn back, all assist in making life easier and less troublesome.


Alzheimer’s and other dementias can significantly change how people interpret what they see. Boldly defined stripes or designs with a vertical bias may be interpreted as bars or grills.


Swirling or sinuous patterns may cause some queasiness, especially if the person is taking anti-psychotic medication.

Age/generation appropriateness

Although often colouful and detailed, retro patterns of the 50s and 60s may be appreciated by the elderly.

Small geometrics or flecks

These can look like something has been spilt or needing to be swept up or picked off.


Patterns of flowers and leaves which are to any extent realistic are not helpful because they may be mistaken for the real thing. Abstract or stylised designs of organic items generally work better.

Stirling Dementia Centre

Stirling Dementia Centre and Panaz worked together to look at how pattern and color are used to enhance a care environment and enable a person living with dementia to remain independent longer.

Speak to an Expert

If you could do with some advice in wanting to design for dementia patients, get in touch with us today or fill in the form below. No matter your requirements, we’ll do everything we can to assist.