Wayfinding for people with dementia: A review of the role of architectural design

Gesine Marquardt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

74 Scopus citations


Objective: This paper provides an overview of the available literature on architectural wayfinding design for people with dementia in nursing homes. The results were to be summarized and substantiated through an interdisciplinary interpretation, taking into account changes in the orientation process of people with dementia. Background: Spatial disorientation and declining wayfinding abilities are among the early symptoms of dementia, limiting a person's ability to perform activities of daily living (ADLs) independently and ultimately, perhaps leading to institutionalization. A prerequisite to maintaining residents' quality of life in a nursing home is their ability to orient themselves within their new environment. Approach: The available literature on wayfinding design for people with dementia in nursing homes was reviewed. Two aspects of interventions for residents' wayfinding abilities were identified: the design of the floor plan typology and environmental cues. Results: The design of the physical environment plays a major role in supporting the wayfinding abilities of people with dementia. The floor plan design of a nursing home in particular has a significant influence on residents' spatial orientation and wayfinding. Additional interventions such as signage, furnishing, lighting, and colors are additional supporting features but they cannot compensate for an adverse architectural design. Conclusions: For the creation of a supportive, dementia-friendly environment, both aspects of architectural design must be considered. Design guidelines to support the wayfinding abilities of people with dementia were developed to synthesize both.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)75-90
Number of pages16
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Architecture
  • Dementia
  • Nursing home
  • Orientation
  • Wayfinding

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine


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