In a corner of a Denmark living history museum, there’s an entire apartment that looks like it’s been plucked right out of the 1950s—from the furniture to the foods and even the electrical outlets. Called the House of Memories, this staged scene helps those with Alzheimer’s and other dementias recall events from their early adulthood, the period when memories seem to be best preserved.
When the museum docent, in period dress, asks visitors to tell her about certain things in the apartment or even use items to make their own coffee or turn on a lamp, for example, these associative triggers can cause memories to come flooding back for people with memory loss. Remembering events, people and stories in turn has been shown to lighten visitors’ moods, start conversations and even result in more significant changes like people beginning to talk after years of silence or walking around without their canes.
San Diego in the ’50s
This principle of reminiscence therapy (RT) will also be applied in San Diego as soon as 2018. There, senior living experts are building a very realistic, scaled version of the city, circa 1953 to 1961, called Town Square. Those with memory loss will enjoy guided interactions through the village, which includes all the key elements like a city hall, working movie theater and restaurant, park, garage with a 1959 Ford T-Bird, and more. The objective is for the tours to become strolls down memory lane.
Dutch Village for Those Living with Dementia
If reminiscing for a few hours seems to help those with Alzheimer’s, could living in such a place be even more beneficial? Hogeway, a Dutch village outside of Amsterdam, is putting this question to the test. In this self-contained village, people with Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia actually live in homes echoing the 1950s, 1970s and 2000s, with the freedom to go wherever they please within the village. Healthcare professionals, posing as grocery store cashiers, post office clerks and gardeners, etc., interact and spend time with them, while inconspicuously providing the care they need.
While this living arrangement certainly jogs residents’ memories, the real value of a village like Hogeway is keeping those with memory loss from becoming isolated and helping them feel normal again. In fact, CNN reported that people living in Hogeway need less medication, eat better, seem happier and even live longer than their peers in traditional memory-care facilities.
While similar communities for dementia patients are planned for other parts of Europe, costs may make this model of memory care prohibitive for implementation in the United States anytime soon. But who knows what the future holds?