Dementia Friendly Interiors: What is LRV?

Sadly, current statistics show that by 2050, 131.5 million people globally will be living with dementia. Therefore, future proofing our care homes now to support those with dementia has never been more important. Research surrounding dementia friendly interiors is extensive and there are many subtle changes we can make to the environments of those living with dementia to improve their lives and support their independence.

One term that you may have heard when considering dementia friendly interiors is Light Reflectance Value (LRV). In this post we explain what LRV is, why it’s important and how you can practically apply the principles of LRV to create dementia friendly environments.

What is LRV?

Simply put, an LRV is the percentage of light that a colour reflects or absorbs. The lighter the colour, the more light it will reflect, whilst darker colours will absorb more light – for example black has an LRV of 0 and white has an LRV of 100. Whilst an LRV is tested against a colour, it actually measures the relative light and darkness, therefore you will often find that completely different colours will have the same LRV if they reflect or absorb the same amount of light.

To establish an LRV, colours are tested and given an LRV rating out of 100 based on the amount of light they reflect or absorb. Some upholstery manufacturers, such as Panaz, have had their upholsteries tested and the LRV values are indicated on their website to enable us to put together a cohesive scheme easily. Many flooring and paint manufacturers will also specify the LRV of their products.

Why is LRV important for dementia friendly interior design?

As we age our eyesight and the ability to distinguish between different objects becomes diminished. If we couple this with the additional confusion that is often a symptom of someone living with dementia, it becomes clear that the environment needs to be carefully designed to enable people to be as independent as possible. Correctly applying the principles of LRV will allow a resident to identify different objects clearly, as well as making wayfinding and decision making much easier.

There are some key principles to apply when considering LRV within a dementia setting which we look at when specifying furniture, soft furnishings and appropriate flooring and wall coverings.

Dementia Friendly Interiors

How can I apply LRV when designing for dementia?

There are key areas that you will consider when designing any interior scheme, by adding in the consideration of LRV you can ensure that your new environment will be as dementia friendly as possible. The basic principle is to ensure that there is a 30 point LRV difference between colours that are directly adjacent to each other. Below we set out how this should be considered practically:

  • Lounge chairs – when choosing upholstery for lounge chairs you will need to ensure that the upholstery has a 30 LRV difference to the flooring (and walls if the chairs are directly against these). It is also important to avoid any lifelike patterns, such as florals, as these can be confused for the real thing. If you would like to add an element of interest to the chairs, a contrast piping looks smart and also helps residents distinguish the outline of a chair. In some cases, it is very difficult to upholster a whole chair in a textile that has a 30 point LRV difference to the flooring, as well as considering the practicalities of having light upholstery in certain environments. In this situation, we would recommend that at least the seat cushion of the chair has a 30 point LRV difference to the flooring, in order for residents with dementia to be able to distinguish where exactly to sit.
  • Walls and flooring – wall paint, doors, skirting and flooring should all be different LRV values and ideally of a 30 point difference. In particular, when choosing the flooring it is key to ensure a complete run of surface between rooms (i.e. same colour, or removal, of threshold strips) so that residents can easily navigate from one room to another. Doors that you want residents to use should be easily identifiable by being a highly contrasting colour to the surrounding walls. Equally, if there are doors that you do not want residents to use, such as medical rooms or offices, then paint these in a similar colour to the walls so that they ‘disappear’. Dark door mats and similar items are advised against as residents could see these as large holes in the floor.
  • Case furniture (wardrobes, bedside cabinets, chest of drawers etc) – There are dementia furniture ranges designed specifically for dementia residents that include cut away handles and open sections. However, if you are a home that doesn’t exclusively care for residents with dementia, you may find that a room you have vacant ready for a person with dementia to move in doesn’t necessarily have this type of furniture. Therefore, if you purchase furniture that contrasts with both the walls and flooring and has contrasting clearly distinguishable, large handles, these will be adequate to enable a resident to be as independent as possible.

Whilst designing a dementia friendly interior can often seem like a minefield at first, our expert team have years of experience creating interiors that enable residents to live independently and provide a high quality of life through careful design considerations. If you’d like advice on your interiors, contact us on 01603 664 900 or email sales@furncare.co.uk.