At first glance, the village of Hogeweyk in the Dutch town of Weesp looks like an ordinary place. There are shops and residences, parks and restaurants, and even a theater. There are only 152 people living here, though, and you might notice that all of them are elderly. The younger people here are actually staff–nurses, doctors, and specialists–who work around the clock.
The village is actually a pioneering step in the future of elder and dementia care. Each of the 152 residents are eldery folks living with severe Alzheimer”s and/or dementia, and need nursing home facilities. However, instead of confining them to a depressing room in an institution-like setting, the residents Hogeweyk enjoy complete freedom as well as privacy and autonomy.
And it seems to be working. According to a study, the patients at Hogeweyk are more active and need less medication than patients elsewhere.
Residences come in a few different styles, and can be chosen on what makes the patient happiest, or is most like their home life.
The grocery store allows residents to shop and cook as they would normally, but more importantly, it allows them to continue making their own choices and functioning as adults.
The apartments provide comfort and a sense of dignity to the patients, while the 250-person staff is on hand to ensure care and safety. You can find the staff posing as everyday people in the town, as clerks, cashiers, and store attendees. The only thing the village lacks is money, because finances are difficult for people with dementia and Alzheimer”s. Everything is included in the payment plan.
The staff dresses in regular street clothes rather than a clinical-looking uniform to help residents feel comfortable. The residents, like the woman on the right, do their own shopping with assistance, as needed, from the staff.
The staff is careful to balance residents” comfort with honesty. They”ll never lie about where they are, or that Hogeweyk is a care facility, but they keep things friendly and informal to make residents feel at ease. They”ll also never correct anyone who might mix up their memories.
Hogeweyk includes restaurants, a bar, gardens, and a theater so residents can enjoy activities and socializing while getting care.
A layout of Hogeweyk. The white areas are buildings.
Hogeweyk opened in 2009 and has been successful in its treatment plan. Despite its fancy appearance, the cost is actually comparable to other, more traditional care facilities in the Netherlands. And more importantly, it gives people living with dementia and Alzheimer”s a chance to live out their lives in a pleasant, safe, and happy environment.