Wayfinding and Dementia

Health & Wellbeing

I attended the National Access Conference in Brisbane last week. The theme revolved around Accessible Wayfinding Experiences. One of the speakers, Soren Luckens from Buro North defined wayfinding as, the design of process, operation and spatial elements to influence human behaviour and enhance the performance of the environment.

Another speaker, Tara Quirke from UOW spoke about the challenges of wayfinding for people with Dementia.  This is a challenge that Edmiston Jones takes seriously and considers carefully in our design of Dementia friendly spaces.  According to Dementia Australia, (http://www.dementia.org.au/statistics), there are currently 413,106 people living in this country with Dementia and this is expected to grow to over 530,000 by 2025.

Combined with short-term memory loss, people with Dementia face challenges such as spatial disorientation and reduced ability to navigate in their physical environment.  As a result, wayfinding and Dementia are intrinsically linked which is compounded by the following;

  • Signage which is confusing or poorly placed
  • Reflective surfaces which cause visibility problems due to impaired depth perception
  • Noisy environments due to a loss of ability to filter sound
  • Lack of contrast or clarity in surfaces or signage


The home-like environment created at Borella House in Albury.

Wayfinding is much more than signage, which is quite often seen as a cure for poorly designed spaces. Edmiston Jones understands the problems faced by people with Dementia and ensures that our designs provide;

  • Contrast to doors, walls and floor surfaces
  • Surfaces that don’t cause glare or have complex patterns
  • Landmarks, such as sitting areas or physical elements
  • Signage that is coordinated, uncluttered and visually appropriate
  • A line of sight from resident rooms to communal spaces
  • Finishes and furniture that create a homelike environment

These design considerations go a long way to ensuring that those with Dementia, whether at home or in aged care, are more comfortable and familiar with their surroundings, have less stress and a greatly improved quality of life.


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