Wellness Design In Senior Living Facilities

April 1, 2024
Paint Color for Senior Living Facilities: Likeable Sand SW 6058


When you think about retirement homes or long-term care facilities, what kind of feelings come to mind? Chances are, words like “cozy” or “calming” aren’t the first you think of. For a long time, senior living facilities have felt clinical and cold, but a change of paint color can transform the feeling of a senior living facility and make its residents feel at home.

What are some design considerations for senior living facilities

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and ACA (Accessible Canada Act) have set several compliance recommendations to ensure designs are functional for people as they age and have barriers to mobility.

ADA and ACA requirements vary from state to state, but here are a few examples relevant to retirement facilities:

  • Wide doorways and hallways - At least 36 inches clear width to allow wheelchair access.
  • Clear floor space - Provide enough room in common areas and rooms for wheelchairs to maneuver.
  • Non-slip flooring - Slip-resistant tiles, wood, vinyl or carpet to prevent falls.
  • Grab bars - Install grab bars next to toilets, in showers and tub surrounds for stability.
  • Roll-in showers - Curbless showers allow easier access for wheelchairs or walkers.
  • Accessible lighting - Use motion-sensor or rocker switch lights for easy access in rooms and halls.
  • Lever door handles - Easier to grasp and operate than traditional knobs.
  • Accessible call systems - Emergency response buttons within reach of seniors in beds or chairs.
  • Easy-to-read signs - Ensure signs for rooms, units, amenities are large print and clearly labeled.
  • Ramps - Where possible, provide ramps instead of stairs for wheelchair accessibility.
  • Elevators - Required if any area is not wheelchair accessible by ramp.
  • Accessible amenities - Ensure programs, activities, dining areas are accessible to residents.

Unfortunately, ADA and ACA requirements still exclude many mental barriers we experience as we age like reduced vision or memory loss. But there are a few design choices you can make to help.

  • Clear and simple signage 
  • Predictable room layouts
  • Limit visual clutter
  • Contrasting colors for trim and doors
  • High contrast and large text for signs
  • Avoid stark lighting changes
  • Improve mood with natural light
  • Reduce anxiety with a calming mood
  • Provide secure outdoor access and wayfinding cues
  • Make emergency call buttons highly visible from the wall color
  • Avoid overstimulation

How to avoid disruption when painting senior living facilities

Seniors in long-term care facilities live very routine lives. Vacating the premises for weeks or months for renovations just isn’t an option. 

The noise and disruption of renovations can be quite distressing and may require shutting down sections of the facility, and having large signs and locked doors around closed areas for those experiencing memory loss.

You may consider choosing a low-VOC paint. These water-based paints maintain air quality without the lingering fumes that can cause additional health issues for elderly people like dizziness, headaches or respiratory irritation.

The best thing you can do as a property manager of a senior living facility is choose contractors who get the job done as efficiently as possible. At WOW 1 DAY PAINTING, we always make sure we have the right number of painters to get the job done in just one day. Our people and processes allow us to get the job done without totally disrupting your facility.

Holistic design painting trends for senior living in 2024

The design industry in recent years has garnered a lot of attention for making spaces beautiful, yet accommodating and ADA/ACA-compliant for the elderly. The transformative power of the right paint job can improve the lives of everyone.

Paint ideas for memory loss and reduced vision

  • Use high-contrast colors on doors, trim and signs to help with wayfinding and navigation
  • Ensure adequate lighting levels through paint colors and lighting scheme
  • Incorporate soothing, calm paint colors that don't overstimulate senses
  • Consider two-tone paint schemes that enhance visibility of walking surfaces

How paint improves wellness and socialization

  • Use warm, inviting paint colors to make units feel more like homes
  • Incorporate bright, uplifting paint colors in common areas to encourage socialization
  • Highlight special design elements like murals or artwork on walls
  • Use outdoor paint colors that complement landscape and outdoor spaces

Design that supports senior independence

  • Use contrasting paint to clearly define grab bars, handrails and edges for safety
  • Consider low-sheen paint that is easy to clean
  • Maintain flexibility to modify paint colors as residents change

Generally speaking, you should think about the design and feel of a senior living facility more like a home, and less like a hospital.

Why is assisted living so expensive?

Thoughtfully designed senior living facilities that encourage holistic wellness tend to cost more than cold, industrial hospice facilities. 

However, the World Health Organization estimates up to 10.2% of seniors worldwide experience anxiety. Some reports claim at least 42% of persons over the age of 65 have a functional limitation. So incorporating these design changes into a facility goes a long way.

Design trends improving senior living

Biophilia in senior living spaces

Bringing outdoor elements inside is a design trend we’re seeing everywhere, but it holds special importance for the elderly who may not have the mobility or freedom to spend a lot of time outdoors, so including wood tones, house plants, stone countertops and large windows for natural light can have a huge impact on mood. 

The importance of improving mood with color

Energy and motivation can be a challenge while living in a long-term care facility. Unfortunately, art and wallpaper might be too busy and disorienting, especially if the resident is experiencing memory loss or other mental illnesses. So choosing an impactful wall color goes a long way in bringing vitality into a space.

Designing for comfort

Sometimes designers prioritize appearance over comfort, but that simply isn’t an option for senior living facilities. Choosing comfortable furniture that’s easy to get out of by yourself, avoiding rugs that can be tripped over and selecting materials that are easy to clean are all factors in your color scheme. 

Recommended paint colors for senior living facilities

Warm browns

Paint Color Design for Senior Living Facilities: Likeable Sand SW 6058

Likeable Sand SW 6058

These cozy wooden tones bring warmth into a space without being aggressive like reds and oranges. These tones are also dark enough that classic white trim paint will be high contrast and easily visible for seniors.

Cooling Grays

Paint Color Design for Senior Living Facilities: Aleutian SW 6241

Aleutian SW 6241

Choosing a neutral gray with a lovely blue or green undertone is calming and sleek without feeling clinical. A tone like this is best suited for senior living spaces with large windows and natural light.

Lively Pastels

Paint Color Design for Senior Living Facilities: Stardew SW 9138

Stardew SW 9138

Blues and greens are often associated with nature and relaxation but these softer shades still reflect plenty of light in the room. This could also be a pleasant accent wall in common areas to complement a neutral color in larger spaces.

Off-whites and light neutrals

Paint Color Design for Senior Living Facilities: Kestrel White SW 7516

Kestrel White SW 7516

These are crowd-pleasers with enough depth that they won’t feel clinical. You may want to choose a darker tone for trim paint (like taupe) and ensure rails, buttons and signage all appear with high contrast. If seniors want to hang their own artwork or photographs in their rooms, they will really pop on this color.

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Want more inspiration? Read our other blog posts:



  • Interior Painting