Making Sense of the Senses.. Part Three

Image Courtesy of  Altro

Image Courtesy of Altro

We learnt about the basic senses (sight, smell, taste, hearing and touch)1, internal senses (such as kinaesthetic, equilibrium, pressure, stretch)1,2 and some controversial ones such as passing of time and premonition2 in part one. The impact of ageing on these senses continued the theme in part two. We conclude in part three to show you how designing for the senses becomes so important!

Older people experience changes to vision, colour recognition and perception so you need to consider furniture and flooring selections accordingly.

Whilst people’s experience of eating alters as they age due to changes in the smell and taste receptors, they still appraise food and react positively if it is seen as a pleasurable experience3. Increasing the multisensory experience of food may contribute to increased intake3 and having an accessible kitchen and immersing the residents in the experience would support this. Whilst we would use different selections, consider the appeal of this kitchen to the right with the safety elements, discrete staff desk in the corner, good chairs to sit down and either participate or observe. The taste buds are stimulated and the warmth emanating from the kitchen on a cool winter’s day is something we all would enjoy!

Image Courtesy  | Recommended concept design only.

Image Courtesy | Recommended concept design only.

Our skin changes as we age which leads to decrease in tactile sensory capacity so our sense of touch decreases 4. Subtle stimuli may not be enough so when designing for the elderly, consider a variety of tactile experiences. The key is ensuring they are interesting and appropriate.

Hearing (along with vision) is amongst the first senses to be affected by the ageing process5. Interpretation or understanding of sounds can be altered in people who have cognitive impairments such as dementia. Thus sound outputs and reverberation control within residential spaces is essential. This can be assisted through the application of acoustically absorbent finishes to ceilings and walls and soft furnishings such as curtains and upholstered furniture as well as soft floor coverings such as carpet and cushioned vinyl5.

Amaroo Karri courtyard and exercise area

Amaroo Karri courtyard and exercise area

People in residential aged care are at risk of falls due to many factors including impaired balance and equilibrium as well as reduced mobility and strength6. Opportunities to engage in functional activities which are enjoyable and meaningful are important inclusions in the design process as they can all contribute to maintaining or improving the impairments experienced. Designing for the senses is a complex and multifactorial process and it not as simple as it may appear!

Amaroo Karri Living Room Acoustic Finishes

Amaroo Karri Living Room Acoustic Finishes



  3. Doets, E.L and Kremer, S. 2016. The silver sensory experience – A review of senior consumers’ food perception, liking   and intake.  Food Quality and Preference. 48(B): 316-332.  ISSN 0950-3293.
  4. Amaied, E., Vargiolu, R., Bergheau, J.M. and Zahouani, H. 2015. Aging effect on tactile perception: Experimental and modelling studies. Wear. 332-333:715-724. ISSN 0043-1648.
  5. Hayne, M. James. & Fleming, R. 2014. Acoustic design guidelines for dementia care facilities. Proceedings of 43rd International Congress on Noise Control Engineering: Internoise2014 (pp. 1-10). Australia: Australian Acoustical Society.
  6. Álvarez Barbosa, F. , Pozo‐Cruz, B. , Pozo‐Cruz, J. , Alfonso‐Rosa, R. M., Sañudo Corrales, B. and Rogers, M. E. 2016.  Factors Associated with the Risk of Falls of Nursing Home Residents Aged 80 or Older. Rehabilitation Nursing, 41: 16-25. doi:10.1002/rnj.229
KnowledgeAmy Bosnar