Interior Design Solutions for the Elderly; Clients with ADHD

interior design
At the 2013 Undergraduate Symposium, Jessica Walsh presented her interior design for an art center for the elderly. She hopes to work in commercial design, specifically in hospitality or healthcare design, with the dream of eventually starting her own design firm. Photo: Monica Saaty, IDEA Lab.

Jessica Walsh, a 2013 NAU graduate with a degree in interior design and a minor in merchandising, presented her final capstone project entitled “Creative Healing at Any Age” at the 2013 Undergraduate Symposium. Her poster highlighted her design for a functional art therapy center in Flagstaff for older adults.  “The idea of art therapy has always been a personal interest, and I wanted to learn more about it,” said Walsh. The project became an opportunity to research how best to design an art therapy center to meet the needs of this specific group of clients.

An art therapy center for older adults 

Through her research, Walsh discovered that an art therapy center could cater to the needs of the elderly by utilizing color theory, textures, and natural lighting. As we age, the lens of the eye starts to yellow, causing colors to be muddied. Red and yellow are the most recognizable colors for the elderly. Another targeted design element is to highlight the contrast between the floor, walls, and ceiling through color or texture to help with depth perception. Walsh’s color scheme for the center reflected elements in nature (fire, earth, water, and air), which create a calming effect while still incorporating bold colors, such as reds, to help with visual impairments. According to Walsh, by utilizing natural lighting and creating spacious rooms, an environment is not only enjoyable and easily navigated by the elderly, but it also provides a space where senior artists can work within an environment that facilitates creativity.

Designing for someone with ADHD

interior design edan
At the 2013 Undergraduate Symposium, Edan Maoz discussed ways to design a living space for someone with ADHD. He would like to work for a company that designs museums on a global scale.

Edan Maoz, a senior who is pursuing a triple major in interior design, art history, and humanities, with a minor in museum studies discussed his research in an oral presentation at the symposium. Maoz’s research explored various ways people could improve their homes to help someone who suffers from ADHD. 

“I think that considering the space from another person’s point of view is the most challenging [aspect of design].”

Edan explains, “Not only did I have to consider aesthetics, but I also had to consider functionality issues. I think that considering the space from another person’s point of view is the most challenging [aspect of design].” For the ADHD client, for example, less is more. Through the findings in Edan’s research, he made sure every aspect of the house would be designed for simplicity and practicality. This included glass cabinetry to make it easy for the client to find things, a laundry chute in the bathroom to make everyday chores much easier, and using mostly shades of blue on walls because of the color’s calming effect.

In addition to helping meet the needs of particular groups, interior designers have an immense impact on our everyday lives, which often goes unnoticed, notes Walsh. “When you walk into a bank, a grocery store, a school—even a car dealership, you don’t realize that someone had to research and figure out exactly what flooring, wall covering, lighting, ceiling material, and so forth would fit the needs of that particular space,” she explained. Every building that we enter has a very specific purpose and intention. Interior designers quite literally create much of our everyday realities through the spaces that we navigate, occupy, and learn in.

--Kelly Zarcone