"Culturally-experienced phenomena provide what are often overlooked resources for creating more therapeutic programs and meaningful environments for older persons. These environments are particularly important for persons with early and mid-stage dementia. Continuing challenges include: 1) The development of a conceptual as well as an operational approach for the thoughtful integration of the latest research-based information about environments for older persons with culturally-relevant features; and 2) the education of both designers and clients to reconsider the superficial use of shapes, forms, geometries and decorations as an "appropriate expression' of culture, to be replaced with more meaningful, activity_based solutions. This presentation uses illustrations from several case studies and focuses on a conceptual framework which facilitates discussion about the transaction between the unique needs of the elderly and culturally_responsive environmental design. It addresses the need, and presents tentative approaches for a more thoughtful consideration of schemata behind the physical expression: the spatial organization of the environment and its responsiveness to lifestyle, social structure, daily activities, and rituals, as well as other factors, all of which hold meaning and significance to those particular users. It suggests the use of experiential __ rather than abstract __ cultural phenomena which reinforce, and are integratable with aging_related therapeutic goals and concerns."