Senior Resources » Answers for Elders Episode: Dementia: The Environmental Four Fs

Answers for Elders Episode: Dementia: The Environmental Four Fs

Allyson Schrier, founder and CEO of Zinnia TV, joins Suzanne to talk about Teepa Snow’s four ideals for making the environment a safer place for those with Alzheimer’s and dementia. Teepa says an environment should be Friendly, Familiar, Functional, and Forgiving. Environmental wellness is one of the 8 foundational principles of wellness, a focus of the Vitality Revolution podcast series sponsored by Humana.


Allyson explains, “I want to look at the space through their eyes. And I want to ask myself, is this a space that’s friendly to them? Is it going to seem familiar to them, if I’m moving a loved one into long-term care, and I’m creating a space for them in that long-term care setting? Is it going to be reminiscent of where they came from? Is it someplace that’s going to appear friendly and familiar to them? And this can go with smells as well, bringing in flowers, bringing things that remind them of where they used to live.”

The basics of the four Fs are:


“Friendly is an environment that feels comfortable and like I belong there. So just looking at the kitchen for instance, we would want it to be something that speaks to who I was as well as who I am. So a color scheme that I love and that I find comforting a color, uses solid contrasting colors for dishware and towels, so that they are easily distinguishable from cabinets, countertops, and appliances. High contrast switch plates, so that it’s for me to find those. I also want to make sure to in this friendly vein that the light is really good. Add light strips underneath the cabinets for instance…

“Familiar: I want to make sure that somebody is familiar with their space. We want to ensure that all food items are clearly labeled, that food storage containers are marked with contents, and a date. And we also think about removing some of the kitchen cabinet doors, using open concept shelving. So that is familiar, I’m familiar with all of the things that are in my kitchen.
stripped down to its essentials, reducing clutter on the countertop. Use hooks to hang utensils on the wall, so that things are in plain view.

“Functional: Reducing the quantity of items in cabinets and drawers to a minimum, stripped down to its essentials, reducing clutter on the countertop. I don’t know how many appliances you have on your countertop – I have way too many. Use hooks to hang utensils on the wall, so that things are in plain view… That table that I sit beside when I watch TV, does it just contain the things that I really need the most, or there are many other things that are going to make it hard for me to find what I need the most?”

“The fourth F is forgiving. I want to make this kitchen a safe space. This goes throughout the entire house… removing kitchen floor mats to prevent falls. Ensuring that cords on small appliances are in good working order and not a jumble. And maybe having like a power strip where everything plugs in. Creating laminated cards with basic instructions for simple tasks like how to make a pot of coffee, how to cook oatmeal, or how to heat mechanics.”


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Originally published September 11, 2023


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