Tuesday, February 25, 2014

A Caring Village Designed Just For People With Dementia.

Hogeweyk is a village with 23 houses,a theatre, a supermarket, an outpatient care unit and a restaurant.
Living a lifestyle, just like before. Residents recognize each other based on their activities, life experiences and interests. Hogeweyk is a care village with 23 houses, a theatre, a supermarket, an outpatient care unit and a restaurant.

What is Alzheimer’s disease and Dementia?

Alzheimer’s disease is an illness of the brain. It causes large numbers of nerve cells in the brain to die. This affects a person’s ability to remember things and think clearly. People with Alzheimer’s and Dementia become forgetful and easily confused and have a hard time concentrating. They may have trouble taking care of themselves and doing basic things like making meals, bathing, and getting dressed.

Alzheimer's disease and other types of dementia can be a challenging journey, not only for the person diagnosed but also for their family members and loved ones.

Alzheimer's disease consists of three main stages: mild, moderate, and severe and may take many years to develop. What do we as a society do to care for people with dementia and Alzheimer’s?

In the Netherlands, a creative care concept is being tested. They have designed self-contained "villages" where people with dementia shop, cook, and live together—safely, with minimal assistance.

Nursing homes or caring villages?

The world’s population is aging rapidly. According to the Alzheimer's Association, one in three seniors today die with dementia. The process of finding and paying for long-term care can be very difficult for both loved ones and patients. Most caretakers are underpaid, overworked, and must drive long distances to their jobs, wasting some 17 billion unpaid hours of care a year. With Baby Boomers aging out, it's just going to get worse: Alzheimer's has increased by an incredible 68 percent since 2000, and the cost of caring for patients will increase from $203 billion last year to $1.2 trillion by 2050.

As a nation, we're not prepared for the future that awaits us—financially, infrastructurally, or even socially. But in the small town of Weesp, in the Netherlands that citadel of social progressivism—at a dementia-focused living center called De Hogeweyk, aka Dementiavillage, the relationship between patients and their care is serving as a model for the rest of the world. 

A self-contained world with restaurants, cafes, a supermarket, gardens, a pedestrian boulevard, and a theatre. 

What is Hogeweyk?

Hogeweyk, at first glance looks like a fortress: A solid podium of apartments and buildings, closed to the outside world with gates and security fences. Once inside, it is its own self-contained world: Restaurants, cafes, a supermarket, gardens, a pedestrian boulevard, and even a theatre.

The idea, explains Hogeweyk's creators, is to design a world that maintains as much a resemblance to normal life as possible—without endangering the patients. A world that treats the elderly living with this illness with well deserved dignity and respect.

At Hogeweyk, the interior of the security perimeter is its own little village—which means that patients can move about as they wish without being in danger.

Designed for dementia patients.

Each apartment hosts six to eight people, including caretakers—who wear street clothes—and the relationship between the two is unique. Residents help with everything from cooking to cleaning. They can buy whatever they want from the grocery store. They can get their hair done or go to a restaurant. It's those basic routines and rituals that can help residents maintain a better quality of living.

"The fact that a resident cannot function 'normally' in certain areas, being handicapped by dementia, does not mean that they no longer have a valid opinion on their day to day life and surroundings," say administrators.

People with dementia often struggle with unfamiliar spaces, colors, and even decor. To compensate for this deficit, Hogeweyk apartments are designed to appear familiar, categorized into six basic "genres" of design: old fashioned, homey, Christian, artisan, Indonesian, and cultural.

Each apartment is different, catered to a particular lifestyle, right down to the silverware and furniture. "Living in lifestyles," explains Hogeweyk staff, "just like before."

Each apartment is different, catered to a particular lifestyle, right down to the silverware and furniture.

The brainchild of Dutch architects.

Hogeweyk was designed by Dutch architects Molenaar&Bol&VanDillen, but it was the brainchild of Yvonne van Amerongen, a caregiver who has worked with memory patients for decades. Starting in the early 1990s, van Amerongen and a group of like-minded caregivers began researching and designing a type of home where residents would participate in life, the same way they did before they entered a dementia care unit.

Hogeweyk, which opened in 2009, was the culmination of that work—but according to The New York Times; interest from companies in other European countries and America might soon bring the same approach to our shores. In fact, in Switzerland, a similar "village" has already opened—this one mimics life in the 1950s. After all, the booming aging runs parallel to a boom in construction—thousands of nursing homes and new memory care units will be built over the next few decades. And how they're designed could affect every person who will develop memory related illnesses.

How we treat our elderly reveals our true character.

What Hogeweyk reveals, though, is the culturally-ingrained way we distinguish between those who do and don't suffer from dementia. By treating residents as normal people, Hogeweyk seems to suggest that there isn't such a huge difference, deep down—just differing needs. By designing a city tailored to those unique needs, residents avoid the dehumanization that long-term medical care can unintentionally cause. What a lovely way to treat our elders.

On the village's web site, a quote from Italo Calvino's 1978 Invisible Cities says it all. 

"They already have experienced a night like this, and they were happy then."

For more information: http://dementiavillage.com/en/kenniscentrum/

Nancy Burban 2014


  1. You are a great writer with the passion of the patient and the compassion of the doctor combined in one venue. I am proud of what you are writing. This can really help those who suffers from this kind of disease.

    Dementia specialist


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