What would have to happen to make eldercare feel like the system we want for our own parents, or even ourselves one day? The village of Hogeweyk offers a completely new reality. Here’s what’s possible if we rethink everything about how we live in our later years!

The small village of Hogeweyk is like any town you may come across, complete with a grocery store, park, a restaurant, and even a bar. Its residents stroll the grounds freely, stopping to chat with each other about life, grabbing a bite to eat, or meeting one another for a drink. There’s really only one big difference between this town and one you may be familiar with: everyone here has dementia.

On this edition of Saturdays Around the World we’re traveling to Hogeweyk, located right outside of Amsterdam in the Netherlands to explore a place that’s way more than just a nursing home. With a focus on freedom, meaning, and social lives, this town is rewriting the possibilities of eldercare by helping its residents feel closer to home!

Image: Two residents of Hogeweyk cycling together outside!

A resident of Hogeweyk and her husband cycling together on a beautiful day!
Courtesy of Dementia Village, Hogeweyk (Weesp, The Netherlands).

Stop confusing the confused brain.

According to the World Health Organization, around 50 million people have dementia worldwide, with nearly 10 million new cases reported every year. 1 But the impact goes further than just those who suffer from it. The multitude of loved ones and caregivers are also at the mercy of watching this debilitating syndrome alter the person they care for.

In its wake, dementia leaves everyone around it confused on how to move forward.

While there still isn’t a cure for this heartbreaking syndrome, if we rethink how we approach the care we offer, we can make a world of difference! In fact, after learning about this town, the future of dementia care seems like an obvious course.

Dementia, at its simplest definition, confuses the brain—affecting memory, thinking, orientation, comprehension, calculation, learning capacity, language, and judgment. 2

And when typical nursing homes are giving off sterile, hospital-like vibes, those experiencing dementia are just left confused as to why they’re living there.

“What we saw everyday was that the people who lived in our nursing home were confused about their environment. Because what they saw was a hospital like environment; with doctors, and nurses, and paramedics in uniform. And they lived on a ward. And they didn’t understand why they lived there, and they looked for the place to get away. They looked and hoped to find the door to go home again.” — Yvonne van Amerongen, project leader and an original founder of Hogeweyk

It’s a sobering account, isn’t it? Often, it’s this very confusion that leads to extreme anxiety, aggression, and depression in the person. So, if they’re experiencing confusion, shouldn’t the response be to alleviate it? Well, that’s what Yvonne van Amerongen thought.

While working in one of those typical nursing homes, Yvonne and her colleagues realized that the current environment wasn’t somewhere they wanted their own parents to go. So, they created that place!

They focused on what makes a life, a life: the social groups we’re a part of, our interests, our freedom. Essentially, everything that has given us meaning throughout our lives.

The result is a town where the residents are encouraged to roam freely; to stop by the grocery store, to sit at the bar with friends, have their hair done, or take a stroll through the park. Where each of the 23 houses is home to a small group of individuals matched together by interest, increasing the likelihood of forming meaningful friendships. And where life is still life: dishes are done, you can smell the food cooking on the stove, and the laundry gets folded.

Completed in 2009, Hogeweyk care village has entirely changed the possibilities of how a nursing home can (and maybe should) function.

Here’s Yvonne on the TED stage to give us a peek into our future of healthcare!

Via: TED 3

Hogeweyk is a part of a larger non-profit organization called Vivium, which is spreading the initiative to support all elderly individuals in living their best lives “with and despite their limitations due to dementia” with their care concept, Be. You can learn more about each by clicking on the links attached to their names above. I’m sure (and hope) that we’ll be seeing more and more models based on this concept throughout the world in the years to come!

You can explore thousands of other fantastic TED Talks over on their website and YouTube channel! Or, may I suggest checking out the other great ones we’ve already curated for you? Click here to see our entire library!

If you are living this chapter of your life with a parent, or you know someone who is, the following article from our archives will open doors to possibilities you never dreamed of!

16 minutes

Aging Gracefully Alongside Your Loved Ones

What if love and laughter could replace some of the struggles we face as our loved ones age and their memories decline? Could we see them and ourselves in new ways? Here are some insights from caretakers who have found ways to bring their relationships to life with a little creativity.

Read More

Shifting the narrative!

Just because we’ve been working in one way for a long time, doesn’t mean that it’s the best way to do something. Say you’ve been driving the same way to work for months, then someone tells you about a shortcut that shaves 10 minutes off and is a much more delightful ride. You wouldn’t go back to the old way, would you?

Hogeweyk is a brilliant example of what happens when we readjust our thinking around a problem. And it’s a life-changing one, at that. The founders of this town created it inside the same constraints that the nursing homes around it work in. But they created a care facility that works for their residents and with their syndrome, instead of causing more confusion, all while providing world-class medical care.

What else can be improved with a simple shift in our thinking? If we went at it from a different angle, could education systems be more effective? What about how we get our food? Or the quality of life in our own communities?

These wonderful articles from our archives are great examples.

6 minutes

How a High School in a Nursing Home is Changing Lives

What if we saw this new wave of people reaching retirement as a new generation of mentors? Connecting youth and older adults has remarkable benefits for everyone! Heres how one program is helping lead the way for whats possible.

Read More

25 minutes

Are Sea-Greens the New Superfood?

The benefits of kelp farming are too extensive to list in full here (but one of the most important may just be that it's cleaning the ocean—naturally.)

Read More

8 minutes

Transforming Detroit One Beehive at a Time!

Could vacant lots actually hold the potential to make cities healthier? Take a look at how this couple is transforming Detroit's many vacant lots into an oasis for urban beekeeping and enriching their community! 

Read More

Stay open to new possibilities!

  • Sam

“No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” — Albert Einstein 

Meet more people and organizations making the world better for everyone! 

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Notes:

  1. World Health Organization. “Dementia.” World Health Organization, World Health Organization, 19 Sept. 2019, www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/dementia.
  2. World Health Organization. “Dementia.” World Health Organization, World Health Organization, 19 Sept. 2019, www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/dementia
  3. van Amerongen, Yvonne, and TED. “The ‘Dementia Village’ That’s Redefining Elder Care.” YouTube, TED, 8 Apr. 2019, www.youtube.com/watch?v=YSZhrxOkBZI&feature=youtu.be.

Sam Burns

Chief Administrative Officer, Head Staff Writer

Sam is a listener, creator, collector of knick-knacks and lover of most, if not all, types of cheese.