Research shows residents with dementia tend to follow landmarks throughout their environment. The more appealing the landmarks, the easier for residents with cognitive impairment to identify and path-find with reduced anxiety and exit-seeking. Environmental modifications can be customized and fun to create. Here are a few ideas that can decrease over-stimulation and exit-seeking and create familiarity while providing residents with interactive areas.


Modifications can promote resident engagement in activities they have enjoyed in the past, or new activities. Research shows that residents with dementia recognize and associate with certain colors, which can have different effects on moods and orientation to environment.

  • Blues and purples would be utilized in high-traffic areas, as they have a calming effect to help reduce exit-seeking anxiety.
  • Reds and oranges would be utilized at interactive areas, as they increase brain wave activity to help stimulate active participation in meaningful activities.


The goal of modifying neighborhoods where residents with cognitive impairments live is to enhance the physical and social environments, which in return can improve quality of life and possibly reduce the need for psychotropic medications and the frequency of negative behaviors. In return, this can help residents to progress through any cognitive disease process with comfort, joy and dignity.

Environmental modifications can add up financially. Funding help can be obtained from FLAG Awards, fundraising and local/state grants.

View poster: Creating a Dementia-Friendly Environment (PDF format)

By Patty Fantauzzo, TPM/COTA/L, Julia Temple Healthcare Center, Englewood, CO