The extraordinary Dutch village for people with dementia

#Ideas & Stories
Read Time: 4 minutes

In the outskirts of Amsterdam lies a small Dutch village called Hogeweyk. By taking the only entrance into the village, you will discover a radical idea in motion that has the potential to revolutionise dementia care.

In the UK, there are currently 850,000 people with dementia and this is set to rise to over 1 million by 2025. It is estimated that 225,000 people will develop dementia this year which equates to one person every three minutes! (Source: Alzheimer's Society)

The need for practical and positive ways of caring for people with dementia is ever increasing. Giving persons maximum quality of life is a priority as we learn more about dementia and the way people respond to the disease. The village of Hogeweyk, also known as Dementia Village, is made up entirely of residents with severe dementia and their carers, presenting an innovative and unorthodox way of providing dementia care that could be replicated around the world.

Dutch Dementia Village Courtyard
The village courtyard

Life in the 'Dementia Village'

Hogeweyk is known as ‘Dementia Village’ because the 152 residents who live there all have severe dementia, require 24-hour-a-day care and will likely call Hogeweyk their last home.

In a certain sense, Hogeweyk is like a fortress. Apartments and buildings surround the whole village, fully enclosing its inhabitants with the exception of the village's main entrance which is monitored 24/7.

However, take a step inside and the restaurants, cafés, shops, gardens and outdoor spaces create an environment just like the world outside, only this world is self-contained and completely safe for people with dementia.

The residents of Hogeweyk are able to carry out day-to-day activities and lead a largely normal life , despite the fact that they are under surveillance at all times. There are twice as many carers as residents to ensure high levels of care. The carers wear ordinary casual clothes and their strong relationship with the residents is unique.

Dutch Dementia Village Grocery Store
The Hogeweyk grocery store

The idea is to design a world that maintains as much a resemblance to normal life as possible, without endangering the patients.
Creators of Hogeweyk 

Residents help with everything from cooking to cleaning. They can go out into the village on their own where they can shop at the grocery store, get their hair done at the salon or eat out at a restaurant.

Gardens, a pedestrian boulevard and pleasant outdoor areas encourage physical activity and maintain the feel of the 'real world'. 25 activity and social clubs also ensure a stimulating lifestyle for residents and enable interaction amongst themselves and with their carers.

Dutch Dementia Village Restaurant
The village restaurant

The village's apartments

There are 23 apartments in Hogeweyk and each one houses between six and eight people, including dementia patients and carers. People with dementia are often confused by unfamiliar spaces, decor and even colours. At Hogeweyk, the apartments are differentiated by lifestyle and each resembles a specific design or culture.

The apartments are categorised into six design genres/styles: Goois (upper class); homey; Christian; artisan; Indonesian; and cultural.

Each of the 23 apartments are completely unique, right down to the silverware and furniture. This adaptability respects the residents' lifestyle, values and opinion on life.

Dutch Dementia Village Apartment
Residents live in apartments alongside 6-8 people

The story behind Hogeweyk

The Dementia Village was the brainchild of Dutch carer, Yvonne van Amerongen. van Amerongen has worked with dementia patients for decades and throughout her career became increasingly aware of the need for alternative ways of providing care for dementia patients.

van Amerongen noticed a number of areas for change in the way we care for dementia. For example, a common symptom of dementia is the urge to roam, often without warning. This has prompted dementia care services to adopt strict lock-down policies, often resulting in a very restricted lifestyle for patients which can negatively impact their wellbeing.

Starting in the early 1990s, van Amerongen and a group of carers who had similar ambitions began researching and designing a type of care facility where residents would participate in life in the same way they did before they required care. Their plans for a care village came to fruition and by working with Dutch architects Molenaar&Bol&VanDillen, the Dementia Village was designed and constructed. Hogeweyk opened in 2009 and celebrates its eighth anniversary this year.

Hogeweyk
Hogeweyk from the outside

Key facts about the village

  • The Hogeweyk dementia village opened in 2009
  • The village's facilities can accommodate up to 152 residents with dementia
  • There are twice as many carers as residents
  • Hogeweyk is made up of 23 apartments
  • Each apartment hosts six to eight people
  • There are 7 different design genres across the apartments and each has its own unique style
  • 25 activity clubs for residents promote social interaction
  • There is only one way out of the village and that exit is under 24hr surveillance
  • The Hogeweyk dementia village cost in the region of £19m, £17m of which was state funded
  • Resident fees are £5,000+ per month

Video Documentary (23:47) - CNN's World's Untold Stories: Dementia Village

The success of the Dementia Village model is generating ideas in other countries across Europe. Similar villages have opened in Italy and in Switzerland, and there is also now a care village that replicates life in the 1950s. By treating its residents with dementia as normally as possible, Hogeweyk changes perceptions and shows us that there aren't huge differences, quite simply just differing needs.

To find out more about the Hogeweyk Dementia Village, please visit the Hogeweyk website. Also, I'd be grateful if you would share your thoughts on this intriguing and exciting project in the comments section below.

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