For those with family members who suffer from dementia or Alzheimer’s, the fear that can be associated with ensuring that your loved one is properly looked after can often be all encompassing. Questions such as is your loved one being looked after, and will they be alright if they are left alone, can run through your head multiple times per day. It is for these reasons that a story out of the Netherlands caught my attention to such an extent, as the story details a village in the Netherlands that has been created specifically to look after those with dementia.
The village has been named “Hogeweyk”, and in many respects is much like any other small town that you may imagine, complete with restaurants, cafes, a supermarket, gardens, and a pedestrian boulevard. Unlike most villages however, the village is completely sealed off from the outside world by security gates and fences, and has health care professionals who walk throughout the village wearing street clothing.
As the story states, the idea behind Hogeweyk was to design a world that maintains as much resemblance to normal life as possible, while at the same time attempting not to endanger the patients. As put by one of the administrators for the village, the fact that a person has dementia and may not be able to function normally in the outside world does not mean that they no longer have a valid opinion on their day to day life and surroundings.
Hogeweyk has been declared a success by many of those involved with the project, and similar projects are now being planned around the world (one in Switzerland has even been planned to re-create life in the 1950s).
While I am not sure if creating entire dedicated villages is a realistic (or even desirable) solution to dementia, it does exemplify the kind of care and thinking that may be required as more of our population ages. As a higher percentage of our population enters their elderly years, we as a society may be required to adapt and re-think how we will look after and accommodate their care. Who knows, maybe we will soon find villages such as Hogeweyk created throughout Canada as well.
Have a great weekend.