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Memory Care Design: Why It Matters

When you think about what makes the perfect home, you might think about how it helps you relax, in which areas do you feel the most comfortable, special places for visiting with guests, and how the space is arranged for ease of flow and convenience. It’s the same with designing an exceptional environment for memory support. These residents deserve the same attention to purposeful design that increases feelings of self-worth and enhances quality of life. In other words, an environment that truly feels like home.

Key Elements of Good Memory Support Design:


A cozy neighborhood makes you feel safe and loved. That feeling never goes away, especially for those facing forms of dementia. In fact, while large groups and spaces can confuse, distract and overwhelm people with memory issues, a smaller “neighborhood” setting feels more familiar and less overwhelming. Today’s memory support neighborhood typically has apartments surrounding a shared kitchen and living area. Visual cues and distinctive landmarks offer clear sight lines to familiar spaces and team member support, important for resident safety as well as for enabling people to orient themselves.

This purposeful memory care design helps encourage engagement and interaction, vital for an individual’s health and well-being, while also helping residents feel they are still in control of their lives. 

A Pleasing Sensory Experience

Soothing, quiet colors and natural (or natural-looking) materials work well. Additionally, having lots of windows enhancing exposure to natural light helps to regulate circadian rhythms, which can alleviate sleep disorders, sundowning, and seasonal depression.   

And while it is important to have spaces where residents can sit and converse with one another or with family, it is also key to have places where a person can simply be still and rest. Providing such choices adds to a sense of independence and control, which can enhance a sense of purpose and fulfillment—a major goal of memory support design.


Every person wants to know where they are going and how to get there. In the most effective design for memory care, spaces are distinctly marked and unique varied landmarks (artwork, a window with a view of the outdoors, or other significant features) are located along the path. Wayfinding is different from wandering, which is when a person becomes frustrated from trying to find their destination. In contrast, wayfinding can reduce agitation and frustration, and actually enhance fitness. In addition, successful wayfinding—reaching a destination—can be a positive experience.

The Balm of Nature

Getting outside safely and easily is a major benefit for those with memory care issues. A well-designed memory care courtyard provides opportunities for supportive movement, as well as social interaction with family, team members, or other residents. The best outdoor spaces are located in serene settings, with continuous walking paths that loop back to building entrances. Fencing should be camouflaged and at least 6 feet in height. Areas to sit, as well as raised garden beds, allow for pleasant interactions and can help stimulate positive memories. In addition, being outdoors engages all the senses and provides vitamin D and melatonin needed for sleep.

Life Stations

Memory care design often features special areas and activities set up to evoke memories and engage residents in events that reflect their life experiences. For example, a small desk with a few simple items might be a pleasant “stop” for a former accountant or schoolteacher. A bench where laundry can be folded might be just right for someone who is soothed by the experience.  These type of spaces and environments can provide opportunities for residents to reconnect with activities that they once loved, or with their friends and family.

Supportive and Rewarding Memory Support at Clearwater Living 

Through Empowered Living, a lifestyle philosophy integrated at each Clearwater Living community, we are committed to offering diverse programs, amenities, and events to encourage residents to find a balanced lifestyle. We’d love to tell you more. Call the community nearest you today!

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