When Colour Sets the Mood

classic blue aged care

The 2020 Colour of the Year is Classic Blue, a timeless, enduring, elegant and pure colour that goes with almost anything and is shaping the colours around us, from interiors to textiles to fashion.

We are living in a time that requires trust and faith. Classic Blue is a solid and dependable blue hue than can always be relied on, particularly in the midst of COVID-19 when constancy and confidence are needed.

The elderly need colours that provide an anchoring foundation. Blue is just that kind of colour, it’s restful, resilient, and not aggressive. Classic Blue is often described as the colour of twilight, a boundless blue evoking the vast sky, encouraging, safe but not boring.

There is a cycle of changing colours that affect us through the different stages of life. These are reflected in our changing colour preferences as we age. Over a hundred years ago the pioneering educationalist Rudolph Steiner believed that people were surrounded by particular colours that had a spiritual influence and objective effect on their emotional life as well as benefiting physical health and mental well-being.

Becoming old can bring about a sense of loneliness and fear so decorating spaces for the elderly needs to address warmth, security and harmony. Variety in the colours in the immediate environment can boost interest in the world and keep cognitive function alive. Older people can be drawn to soft pastels but they may not have the vitality of hue needed to stimulate mind and mood. Eyesight problems can also impair how the colour is seen and what is seen.

Softer shades of reds and oranges are warming and can help with circulation and energy levels. Peaches, apricots, warm tans, terracottas and pinks can also be used for this purpose. Reflecting on the past and thoughts of a spiritual future can also be reflected in colour choices.

Soft blues, lavender mauves and violets are colours that connect to the spiritual or reflective mood. Studies carried out in aged care facilities indicate that soft pinky-beiges contrasted with soft blue-greens are soothing and peaceful. The sparing use of floral patterns can evoke the tranquillity of rural life and the simplicity of times past.

When redecorating common areas, refreshing rooms, or adding a splash of new colour these Resene general guides to colour may help.


  • In its natural form, it is daylight.
  • Helps the mind to be open, clear and receptive.
  • Not good if feeling isolated or cut off.


  • Dark and severe reds tend to have the ability to over-stimulate and agitate.


  • Brighter oranges are very social and gregarious.
  • Deeper oranges like terracottas are very warming.


  • Falls between yellows and oranges.
  • Less irritating to the nervous system than yellow.


  • Bright sharp yellows are very tiring and can trigger migraines and travel sickness.
  • Soft yellows used with bright blues are good for mental stimulation and growth in children.

Bright Greens

  • Those greens often referred to as Kelly Green are found to energise.
  • Used with clear blues and pure white this type of green encourages physical activity.

Dark Greens

  • Works well in areas where you need to concentrate for long periods.
  • Think of the ‘green room’ used by an actor prior to a performance.

Pale Greens

  • Very soothing.

Pale Blues

  • Cooling and helps to encourage rest.
  • Balance for over-activity.


  • Useful where fear is stopping an activity.


  • A mix of violet and red.
  • Nurturing it promotes intuition, meditative and insightful.


  • Blending of two neutrals.
  • As a mid-tone colour, it has been used to denote cool rational thinking.
  • Too much of this colour is demotivating.


  • An earthy blend of orange, ochre yellow and black.
  • Denotes dependability.
  • Can make a space feel secure and stable.
  • Darkest form of orange.


  • Black equates to lack of light – night – and is used to rest mind and body.