Simulated villages give dementia patients independence and hope

Following the world’s first “Dementia Village” in the Netherlands plans are underway for similar communities in Switzerland and the United States.

Hogewey, near Amsterdam

Hogewey Village is a town that, on the face of it, looks like any other Dutch village. It has supermarkets, restaurants, hair salons, a town square, a theatre, a pub and a café. But it’s actually a gated town, home to 152 residents with severe dementia and 250 carers who work undercover in the village’s public places.

Set up 10 miles outside Amsterdam in 2009, Hogewey is known as “Dementia Village” and its residents pay around £4,000 per month to live in a town they cannot leave: they are free to explore within the confines of the village but the double glass doors at the exit are manned 24 hours a day to make sure no residents stray outside its boundaries.


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Baylham Care Centre, Suffolk

Baylham Care Centre, situated between Ipswich and Needham Market, created something similar for its residents in 2014. A replica village green from the 1950s, complete with a railway, bus station, post office, butchers, sweet shop and greengrocers, was built to give residents a sense of comfort, familiarity and purpose by reminding them of a time when they were young adults.

“They have much better long term memories than short term and it really helps those that may be stuck in the past,” said Prema Fairburn-Dorai, who runs the centre.

“Dementiaville,” Bern, Switzerland

A proposed Swiss development, thought to cost in the region of £17 million, will take the Hogewey concept one step further. The village, which has been dubbed “Dementiaville,” will accommodate 150 dementia sufferers but not in a care home. They will share 23 individual houses designed to evoke times gone by, by mirroring the 1950s-style houses of a neighbouring village near Bern.

Like Hogewey, carers will be disguised as shop assistants, hairdressers and post office staff but there will be no closed doors — carers will only intervene to stop residents straying or coming to harm.

Mahal Cielo Village, California

Plans for the first American “Dementia Village” are already underway. The same company which created Hogewey is designing a “loving and unique living alternative for dementia and Alzheimer’s patients” in California.

Not everyone supports this model of care for dementia sufferers. “The very notion is an attempt to fake the normality that people with dementia don’t have,” said Michael Schmieder, director of Switzerland’s Sonnweid home.

What do you think? Are Dementia Villages the best way to bring a sense of normality to people with severe dementia? Or is it unethical to fabricate reality in this way? Let us know in the comments section below.

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