There's a grocery store in the small Dutch village of Hogewey. Residents fill their carts at the market, put items on the conveyor belt, and the cashier pretends to scan them but, really, is just moving them along to be bagged. No money is exchanged, and the shopper walks away with free food. It's all a facade to make village residents feel at home and at ease, to go through the motions of common activities without confusion. This is because all of Hogewey's 152 residents have severe dementia, and this little village where everything looks like it was created by Disney Imagineers to be reminiscent of another time and another place makes them feel normal again. It's an elaborate nursing home disguised as a town.
They've been making that left for 47 years.
The idea was to surround dementia patients with other sufferers who have similar likes and interests. Living areas of Hogewey are divided into seven styles, each designed to simulate the environments of the residents' youths. There's one for the art lovers, one for the city-dwellers, one for those raised around religion, one for the wealthy upper-crusters, one for the blue-collar types, one for the stay-at-home-mom types, and one for patients of Indonesian heritage. Even the style of each apartment is designed to feel like it came straight out of the decade the resident would be most comfortable living in. Every single aspect of the village has been specially made to remove the confusion of everyday life and kindly trick the patients into thinking this isn't a nursing home -- it's their home.
All of the workers in the village hair salon, movie theater, and restaurant are caregivers trained to assist dementia patients. They're all disguised as normal people, wearing normal clothing. No white scrubs -- nothing that would make it feel like a hospital. All of the other 250-plus workers are "neighbors" or "family friends" or, for the residents used to the rich life, "servants."
It's a hell of a lot of time and money dedicated to making life simpler for dementia patients, but there appear to be positive results. Hogewey says its patients require less medication and experience more overall joy compared with patients in traditional facilities. The world the patients live in might be a lie, but considering all the other options out there, maybe a little lie isn't so bad.
Luis is too lazy to come up with something clever for this little blurb at the bottom of his column. While he thinks of something clever for next week, you can find him on Twitter and Tumblr.
For more from Luis, check out 4 Obnoxious Behaviors The Modern World Made Worse and 4 Things I Learned When I Tried to Sell a House on My Own.
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