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Dutch town was built just for people with dementia and it helps uphold their sense of independence

The tiny town, Hogeweyk, is actually a closed nursing home that has been made to appear like the real world.

Dutch town was built just for people with dementia and it helps uphold their sense of independence
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Editor's note: This article was originally published on November 7, 2022. It has since been updated.

Taking care of a spouse or parent with dementia can be an alienating experience, as individuals experiencing severe cognitive impairment are in need of constant caregiving. While many of us would do anything to avoid residential memory care facilities, the unfortunate reality is that they are sometimes the only choice for people suffering from severe dementia. A planned village just outside of Amsterdam aims to provide a different and safer kind of future for people living with severe dementia. The people of Hogeweyk, a village in the Dutch province of Weesp, have conventional lives. They visit the grocery store, gripe about the weather and take part in a weekly bingo game. Hogeweyk is a nursing home that has been made to appear like the real world.



Hogeweyk is a village that functions under Dementia Villages Associates, an organization that aims to humanize the care the elderly receive. There are 23 homes in the village, each with six to seven occupants and a caregiver who prepares meals and drives residents to social gatherings or assists them in tasks such as shopping for food at the village market. The caregiver is also tasked with keeping an eye on the seniors to ensure their safety. The website Be Advice, the parent organization of the village project, describes the village as "inclusive; truly person-centered with high-quality care and treatment; revolutionary; groundbreaking; disruptive; and sustainable."



The website writes, "Many Alzheimer’s experts have, however, valued The Hogeweyk for what it really is: a familiar and safe environment in which people with dementia live while retaining their own identity and autonomy as much as possible, adding that all the staff that works at The Hogeweyk "uses their professional skills to actually support the residents and are, therefore, certainly not actors." Facility manager and co-founder Eloy van Hal tells Business Insider that it helps those with mild to severe dementia suffer a little bit less in their later years. He believes that this sort of design helps to uphold people's sense of independence. 

Residents are divided into six groups instead of being housed in a single institutional setting, each of whom has a private room and uses the communal areas as they see fit. All those living in that "neighborhood" are able to freely utilize the outdoor spaces that are accessible from the communal facilities. There's no need to hold off until a staff person approves or completes a task. If they choose to travel further, they can visit such enjoyable everyday places as a grocery store, restaurant, barbershop, or theater. 



These spaces are made in accordance with principles that have been shown to be effective in institutional settings, such as avoiding dark floor tiles that some persons with dementia may mistake for holes. The aim of the organization is: "Focus on quality of life means also that we have to personalize the service and care for the customers where we now deliver a more ‘one size fits all’ package."

Other design features, however, demonstrate the decision to err on the side of quality of life. Rollators and walkers, which the locals use on their excursions to the town squares, gardens, and public amenities, can also assist prevent falls. The architects are of the opinion that giving people a lot of independence lowers dementia-related challenges including hostility, confusion and wandering while also encouraging physical activity.

The part that is truly revolutionary is that professional care and support go on at the facility around the clock, but it is not that which takes center stage. It is the persons and their respective normal lives that are prioritized. 


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