Located in The Netherlands town of Weesp is a special gated village called Hogeweyk. It is notable because it has been designed specifically as a pioneering care facility for elderly people with dementia. The setting has been compared to that depicted in the film The Truman Show with doctors, nurses and specialists working around the clock to provide the 152 residents the necessary 24-hour care.
Compared to traditional nursing homes, the residents of Hogeweyk are more active and require less medication.
Hogeweyk is a specially designed village with 23 houses for 152 dementia-suffering seniors. The elderly all need nursing home facilities and live in houses differentiated by lifestyle. Hogeweyk offers 7 different lifestyles: Goois (upper class) , Homey, Urban, Christian, Artisan, Indonesian and Cultural. The residents manage their own households together with a constant team of staff members. Washing, cooking and so on is done every day in all of the houses.
Daily groceries are done in the Hogeweyk supermarket. Hogeweyk offers its dementia-suffering inhabitants maximum privacy and autonomy. The village has streets, squares, gardens and a park where the residents can safely roam free. Just like any other village Hogeweyk offers a selection of facilities, like a restaurant, a bar and a theater.
Only patients categorized as having “severe cases of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease” are admitted to Hogeweyk. According to the World Health Organization, 35.6 million people have dementia with 7.7 million new cases being diagnosed every year. At that rate, the number of people with dementia is expected to double by 2030 and triple by 2050.
Hogeweyk was design by architects Molenaar&Bol&VanDillen and opened in December 2009. It was built on four acres of land. Construction cost €19.3 million and was funded primarily by the Dutch government (providing €17.8 million,) plus €1.5 million in funding and sponsorship from local organisations. The cost per resident is similar to more traditional nursing homes at around €5,000 per month.
The doctors, nurses and carers aim to make the experience as real as possible to the residents. Residents do the necessary shopping at the supermarket and assist with preparing and cooking as they would at home. The carers wear normal daytime clothing rather than clinical clothing, and fit into a role that the dementia suffers are likely to be comfortable with; in the working class households the carers are seen to be neighbours or carers, while in the aristocratic/upper class setting, the nurses act akin to servants. The different living styles have different types of music playing, significantly varied interior design, food and methods of table setting.
Residents within each house have their own large bedroom and then meet with other residents to share the living room, kitchen and dining room. There are no locks on the doors and residents are free to mix and walk or cycle around within the village, including choosing to visit the supermarket or cafe, just as they would in the real world.
In order to maintain the “fake reality” (hyperreality) that those living at Hogeweyk are comfortable with, the staff do not seek to correct the residents as the residents are talking about memories, background and history. At the same time, the staff will not deceive the patients if directly asked, truthfully stating that the residents are in a place where they can receive required care for their condition. Because of the nature of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, the sufferers remember the distant past, rather than the present, so even truthful answers given by the staff will be forgotten quickly.
Residents are cared for by 250 full- and part-time geriatric nurses and specialists, who wander the town and hold a myriad of occupations in the village, like cashiers, grocery-store attendees, and post-office clerks. Finances are often one of the trickier life skills for dementia or Alzheimer’s patients to retain, which is why Hogewey takes it out of the equation; everything is included with the family’s payment plan, and there is no currency exchanged within the confines of the village.