Considering colour for care home flooring

Colour has an important part to play when it comes to flooring in care homes – from enhancing wellbeing and improving mood, to wayfinding, safety and fall prevention, says Joe Hurst, Altro’s Key Account Manager for Social Care

There is no doubt that aesthetics and design have a huge part to play in creating homely environments that are calming, healing and therapeutic. Where people may be feeling higher than normal levels of anxiety or confusion, creating the right environment can make a world of difference.

Looking more widely at colour in healthcare, there has been a very definite move towards creating ‘home from home’, warmer interior designs, deliberately stepping away from the colours that may have represented a colder, clinical traditional approach. Product designers have responded to this, and there are more products than ever that are suitable to the practical and aesthetic demands of the care home sector.

Although some care home residents may have health or additional needs, there is still an emphasis on living well and being independent. By reducing the risk of a slip, safety floors greatly improve the independence of care home residents. Look for modern, homely finishes in non-clinical shades – that way residents may be unaware that they’re walking on safety flooring.

Wood-look safety flooring is a good example of this. Wood creates the look and feel of home. It can be warm and comforting but also cool and light. It’s on-trend and therefore what many of us choose for our own home, making it an obvious and popular choice for a care home. Altro wood-look safety flooring can run through most areas within a care home, helping encourage residents to move freely, and making product choice and installation easier to manage. As well as looking great, with a PTV ≥36 for the lifetime of the flooring it also prevents slips, and offers the durability needed for busy areas where wheeled traffic is frequent.

Fall prevention

Although it is vital to enable residents to be independent, the fact that many are vulnerable means designers play a part in ensuring safety. This includes helping to prevent slips, making maintaining hygienic interiors easier, and supporting way-finding. As well as a duty of care to residents, care homes are also obliged by law to protect staff from unsafe working conditions.

For the elderly or frail, a simple trip can have catastrophic and life-changing effects, which makes fall prevention measures vital.

The effects of falling for an older person can be devastating. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) figures show that falls cost the NHS £2.3 billion per year and, according to Age UK, falls and fractures in people aged 65 and over account for over 4 million hospital bed days each year in England. Age UK’s report, Facts about falls, states that 10% of hip-fracture patients will die within one month of their fracture and 30 per cent will die within a year.

We recommend safety flooring in all areas where there is a high, or very high, risk of a slip. For care homes, where people may be vulnerable, unwell or have difficulties moving around, safety flooring can be used throughout to ensure protection. We have attractive, homely options specifically designed to minimise the slip risk in every area of a care home, including specialist areas such as shower rooms and bathrooms.

Age-related changes to our sense of sight include the loss of peripheral vision, colour vision changes, problems with glare and nearer images being blurred. This can mean that poor lighting or badly chosen flooring can be a real danger. For this reason, we recommend that in addition to choosing the right flooring products, consider lighting, handrails and other safety features, along with good housekeeping, to remove hazards and ensure best performance.

From colour to contrast

Care home residents can have specialist or complex needs such as visual impairment, dementia, autism, learning and physical disability that makes mobility difficult and these needs must also be taken into consideration.

Subtle differences between floors, walls, steps and doorways can cause enough uncertainty to result in a fall for people with various visual impairments. While colour choice is important here, it is the amount of light reflected from surfaces that is the main factor in determining a person’s ability to identify different surfaces.

Light Reflectance Values (LRVs) are the best way to measure contrast. Every material has an LRV marked out of 100 points. To meet requirements, there should be at least a 30-point variance in LRVs between adjacent surfaces such as floors and walls.

To ensure people are comfortable with moving from one area to another, it can be preferable to install flooring with similar LRVs and shades throughout key areas. Altro offers a number of flooring solutions that allow this, encouraging more confident movement but minimising the risk of slips by offering the right solution for the right area. This is particularly important when moving from a bedroom or corridor into a bathroom.

The real test for ensuring a contrast or similarity between surfaces is to look at the chosen images in grey-scale. This gives you a true view and shows that even shades that look totally different can appear exactly the same in certain light.

Colour for wayfinding

 To promote independence, reduce stress and help those with dementia or visual impairment, care homes put great emphasis on way finding.

Different colours may be incorporated into way finding and orientation, triggering the memory and helping to create familiarity. It’s important, however, to remember that not everyone sees colour the same way, so this should be combined with other visual signs such as art or other landmarks where possible.

Art can have a therapeutic effect on residents, can act as memory prompts for those with dementia and helps to make an area look less clinical and more homely. Altro Whiterock Digiclad can be used to create art without compromising on hygiene. This printed wall sheet enables photographic images or vector art to be used. These can act as memory prompts for wayfinding and designers have the flexibility to choose images that will work best for the residents. It can be used instead of traditional clinical signage with lettering that residents may struggle to read.

The inclusion of artwork can be beneficial for service users, staff and visitors; it can lend a special identity to spaces and a sense of locality (wayfinding). Users may be consulted when selecting artworks; pieces created by therapists and users could be incorporated in the building designs.

Practical considerations – minimising disruption

If you’re working on a refurbishment or renovation rather than new build, there are more aspects to consider.

Disturbing residents for renovations can cause anxiety for residents and difficulties for staff. We know the stress of moving out of a familiar room can affect some residents badly, to the point where they may damage the temporary surroundings, risking injury as well as trauma.

In these situations, consider adhesive-free floors, which enable a quick turnaround, minimising the amount of time a room is unoccupied or unavailable. There are products for areas that do not need enhanced slip resistance, as well as safety options for areas with a high slip risk.  Altro’s latest adhesive-free product, Altro Wood adhesive-free, provides enhanced slip resistance and 14dB impact sound reduction and high levels of comfort underfoot, providing a safe, durable and decorative solution.  It co-ordinates with the Altro wood ranges.

You can find more in-depth information at


Sarah Thomas

Sarah Thomas Communications

Tel: 01263 479774

 About Altro –

Altro has been at the forefront of innovation for almost 100 years. Today, working closely with architects, end customers, engineers, designers and contractors around the world, our insight and expertise help them transform everyday spaces into environments that can improve the wellbeing of everyone that uses them.

And by consistently turning creative thinking into practical, real-world solutions – that maintain the highest standards of safety and durability – Altro has become synonymous with quality.

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It’s a history that means we value the bold, the brave and the new. From focusing on how the different sectors we serve need their spaces to perform, to the call for more environmentally sustainable materials, Altro is constantly challenging what is possible and seeking new ways of inspiring our customers and answering their biggest challenges.

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We combine the best in contemporary style with the functionality required to improve the way we all live and work, wherever in the world that may be.

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