Posted in Ageing & Culture, Caregiving, International Policies, The Built Environment

Experience how a person with dementia grapple with complex flooring patterns

This has been going around the web for the last couple of weeks and everyone has been all over it trying to find the panda among the snowman or the cat among the owls. It has been a fun experience for most of us and for some it may be quite frustrating. Some people who are able to find the cat or the panda have posted bragged about how quickly they may have found it on facebook.

We know this happens and we talk about how confusing complex flooring patterns can be for people with dementia. They may not be able to distinguish the area and may have difficulties walking around. Imagine if you had dropped your keys on the floor or a purse on a carpet


It would be like looking for the animals in these pictures. See if you can find the panda in the first picture and the cat in the second. .

1. Find the Panda above in the midst of the snowman.

2. Find the cat in the sea of owls.

Images created by Gergely “Dudolf” Dudás and more images can be found on Dudolph’s Facebook page.

Researchers are still trying to work out how the brain tries to categorise objects. The latest breakthrough came from Monash University where researchers are trying to utilise a new imaging technique known as the semantic wavelet-induced frequency-tagging (SWIFT) to help us find the answers (Koenig-Robert et al. 2015).

If you are caring for someone with dementia or working with people with dementia, please stop and have a think about the type of flooring and perhaps these principles from  Prof. Richard Fleming and Kirsty Bennett, University of Wollongong might come in really handy in the decision making process.

  • Reduces unhelpful stimulation
  • Optimise helpful stimulation
  • Support movement and engagement

Just trying to find the panda and the cat may be somewhat easy or really quite frustrating for some. It will take a couple of seconds at least and that is the situation that that people experiecing cognitive impairment have to grapple with when they come up against environments of complex designs. We have to take our current experience with hunting for the panda or cat and multiply that by ten or even a hundred folds. So before you choose that intricately design carpet for your flooring, please stop and think if the choice you are making is an inclusive one for people with dementia.


Fleming R, Bowles J. Units for the confused and disturbed elderly: Development, Design, Programmimg and Evaluation. Australian Journal on Ageing. 1987 November;6(4):25-8.

Fleming R, Forbes I, Bennett K. Adapting the ward for people with dementia. Sydney: NSW Department of Health; 2003.

Koenig-Robert R, VanRullen R, Tsuchiya N (2015) Semantic Wavelet-Induced Frequency-Tagging (SWIFT) Periodically Activates Category Selective Areas While Steadily Activating Early Visual Areas. PLoS ONE 10(12): e0144858.



Hi, I'm Dr Joanna Sun, Co-author of the Singapore Environmental Assessment Tool. I am very passionate about working towards improving the care of people with dementia, and I hope my work will make a difference.

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