While discussing the effects of dementia, the ‘positive’ aspects are not typically highlighted. Being a condition that affects millions each and every day, it can be tough to see a silver lining. We often think of those suffering, as well as their friends who selflessly care for them — but what if there was something more?
What if there was a ‘village’ where residents affected by dementia felt safe and at home? A place where residents did not feel scared and overwhelmed by the constant hustle and bustle of a nursing home. Where family members didn’t worry about their loved one’s quality of life?
Well, there are places like this that exist — this is the story of dementia village.
Hogeweyk — The Birthplace of Something Incredible
The name ‘Dementia Village’ was coined by CNN, after the world was shown an isolated village just outside of Amsterdam. Hogeway is a cutting-edge care facility, where residents are given an opportunity to live a seemingly normal life. Being the size of around ten football fields, this village is home to 152 residents — all whom have dementia
Living in houses that are differentiated by lifestyle, there are seven options available — Goois (upper class). Homey, Christian, artisan, Indonesian, and cultural. Working with staff members, these individuals manage their own homes, where washing, cleaning, and cooking are performed daily.
Just as you would expect any village to look, Hogeweyk has squares, gardens, streets. And a park where residents are free to roam and explore. Given maximum privacy and autonomy, these residents are safe, yet free to live. Home to a bar, restaurant, and theatre, residents from surrounding neighbourhoods are also welcomed.
Instead of piling 4-5 dementia-suffering individuals into one large room, residents live with others who share similar ideas and values. In many ways, this is what makes their living space a home. What’s even more impressive, is that homes have been designed to resemble a ’50s setting, ’70s setting, or a home from the 2000s.
Homes were built and stylized to match the time period when the residents’ short-term memories no longer functioned at an optimal level. With 250 full- and part-time nurses and specialists on board, these individuals also fill occupational roles in the village, such as grocery store attendees and post-office clerks.
A Way to Improve the Lives of Dementia Patients
The point here is, just because someone is diagnosed with dementia, does not mean their life is over. Perhaps, we need to focus more on the ways in which we’re caring for individuals with dementia. The Dementia Village has created an area where people can live normal lives, all while benefiting from a specialized safety net.
In order to live in Hogeweyk, residents must suffer from severe dementia. Even though these individuals are often lost and confused, there’s always people to guide them home. On average, these individuals are taking less medication, and even have an increased lifespan. It’s been stated that these residents eat better and have more exercise, all which benefit their health.
Based on this initial Dementia Village, other countries have followed. In 2013, another dementia village opened in Georgian Bay, Ontario — decked out with all kinds of memorabilia from the ’40s, ’50s, and ’60s. Both Italy and Switzerland are also building similar villages, with positive action spreading across the world.
This is inspiring, as it goes to show that just because you are diagnosed with dementia, does not mean that your life is over — far from it. It also shows that the way in which patients are cared for a treated, will significantly influence their quality of life and potentially their lifespan. Stay tuned for more dementia villages popping up around the globe, as well as related research regarding these unique settings.