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{ } AGING with an Attitude A Place Where People with Dementia Lead Normal Lives Written by Dorie Sugay, Executive Director of Visiting Angels M illions of people have dementia, causing their lives to drastically change. Imagine a place where there is no stigma around this disease— a place where a person with dementia could live a “normal life”—taking a walk, having their hair done, going shopping— just like they did before they reached the advanced stages of dementia. Hogeweyk is just such a place. It is a village located in Weesp, Netherlands. Walking through the village, you see the movie theatre, the 5-star restaurant, the grocery store, the homes, the hall where sing-a-longs shake the windows with giddy laughter much as it might have been in the 50s. Caring community members, who recognized that reminis- cence therapy and a life with meaning could help people with dementia, created this “Dementia Village” in the 90s. Hogeweyk is a secure village with streets and sidewalks where people, although unable to leave, don’t feel confined. They can roam —walk to the beauty parlor and be pampered or meet new friends to have a drink or two at a full bar. Residents shop, using “internal currency.” No one judges. In this village you are either someone challenged by the disease or someone who is highly trained to be there to help those who are. The hairdresser, the gro- cery clerk, the postal worker, the butcher – they all understand dementia and are trained to engage the residents and to empower them to help themselves and lead as “normal” lives as possible. There are 25 clubs in this village that provide activities from baking to crafts, to cycling, to “doing office work.” There is a Mozart House, where people can enjoy classical music and even a garage where one can tinker with cars from the 50s. Residents live in homes built for seven residents – six with dementia, one care specialist. Those who have been involved in this project say that residents seem happier, more engaged than when they arrived. No statistical studies have been conducted but we know that one’s environment can affect one’s behavior and mood, that a more meaningful life lifts one’s spirit. At Visiting Angels, clients with dementia long for the days when they felt in control. They talk about feeling like the disease is attacking their self worth. The residents of Hogeweyk feel in control—they can go anywhere they want in the Village, do whatever they want (minus unsafe activities of course). Even living in an era they are used to seems to help. Workers have noticed new- comers opening up as the environment encourages them to reminisce. Our country can be proud of many achievements and yet our score card when it comes to caring for our older adults does not reflect it's greatness. We need to educate our citizens about dementia. Families need to understand what is going on with their loved ones to prevent challenges from tearing relationships apart. A 37-year-old businessman in San Diego is doing his part by building a “miniature memory village” inside a 20,000-square-foot industrial build- ing in Chula Vista, California. People with dementia can visit this village, called “Glenner Town Square” and enjoy themselves but only for a few hours. The concept is somewhat similar to the Dementia Villages in the Netherlands— a step back in time with activities that stimulate the senses, allowing the guests GILROY • MORGAN HILL • SAN MARTIN december 2018-january 2019 to feel “normal” while there. What is impressive is that it only costs $95 for an eight-hour visit or $65 for a four- hour visit—now that is a business with a heart! Dementia is a spectrum of brain disorder that cause a chain reaction of consequences. A heartbreaking fact is that many families are not prepared for this challenge; even those who educate themselves find their sanity tested. In 2018, Alzheimer’s and other dementias will cost our nation $277 Billion. By 2050, this could rise to as high as $1.1 Trillion (Alzheimer’s Association, 2018). Hogeweyk became a reality for only $25 Million. One wonders what it would take for our country to realize that we need to invest in educating communities, and in more research and support for those affected by dementia. Imagine if we built villages that supported our citizens as they struggle with dementia, or PTSD, or mental health issues. Villages that could allow families to stop worrying about their loved ones and get back to their own normal. Seems to me that we would then have an even greater America. Dorie Sugay is the Executive Director of Visiting Angels. gmhtoday.com 63