Article written by Katy Austin, Bournemouth School for Girls.
Worldwide, according to the Alzheimer’s society, over 44 million people are believed to be living with Alzheimer’s disease or other types dementias. By 2030, if breakthroughs are not discovered, we will see an increase to nearly 76 million. By 2050, rates could exceed 135 million. Much of the increase will be in developing countries. Dementia mainly affects older people, although there is a growing awareness of cases that start before the age of 65.
Caring for a person with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia is often extremely difficult and can be very strenuous, many family members and unpaid caregivers experience high levels of emotional stress and depression as a result.
However, in a part of Holland, not far from Amsterdam, there is some light at the end of the tunnel. Hogewey is a small village dedicated to the care of people suffering with dementia. With its 152 residents, both male and female, averaging an age of 83, Hogewey is a highly successful nursing village.
The aim of the small village in Holland is to make dementia patients feel that they are independent, yet still contribute to the community. You often hear of the elderly sat in front of the TV all day, however at Hogewey, this is far from the case.
Hogewey is a secure and safe village, but within its environment the residents are free to roam in the open air and explore as much as they wish; they are even encouraged to help with cooking and other household tasks including shopping in the village grocery store. There are no cars or buses on the roads to worry about, although one may come across a bicycle from time to time. Residents are very active; they have the option of going to the shops, the hairdressers, restaurants and even a movie theatre; they’re usually seen going on walks with friends around the grounds.
Cost was a large factor when making sure that Hogewey was a success. The cost to build the Dutch community was slightly under £15 million. £13 million of which was funded by the Dutch government. The remainder was raised through donations and charity events. Residents pay approximately £4,000 per month, and there is a long waiting list.
Some oppose the idea of creating a “fantasy” world, arguing that residents are being misled, however, the project developers have said that the village is one of the most compassionate and kind types of care offered anywhere. Many experts agree to the homelike setting at Hogewey that allows residents to live as normal a life as possible, eating dinner family style, visiting friends, stopping by the barbershop, or going for a walk whenever they wish.
Others argue that the cost is simply too much and would leave the majority of the current sufferers of dementia in the same place they are today, meaning that only the richer sufferers would be able to go and live in villages such a Hogewey, which leaves thousands of sufferers still struggling.
But is there a future in this form of dementia care? Germany and Switzerland have studied Hogewey and may be the next countries to follow suit, creating their own dementia care villages. But is this the next step for the UK? Would our elderly benefit from villages such as Hogewey, or will it be too late by 2030 to do much about the situation?