It’s a revolutionary concept that could transform the way we care for people with dementia and help them live a happy more fulfilled life. We investigate the growing worldwide interest in ‘dementia villages.’

Walk around the village of Hogeway near Amsterdam and you’ll see lots of elderly people going about their daily lives. They might be shopping in a supermarket, drinking tea in a café, visiting the hairdresser or going to the cinema. The only thing these village residents have in common (apart from looking pretty happy with their lot) is that they all have late stage dementia.

The village is home to 152 men and women with severe dementia. They receive round-the-clock care from 240 ‘villagers’ dressed in every day clothes, but who are actually dementia-trained professionals and take care of everything, including meals, personal care and medication.

Hogeway was inspired by a care home manager who couldn’t stand the thought of her own parents ending up in a care home. The village opened in 2009 and is already proving a great success, with residents being shown to live longer and need less medication than those living in a more traditional care home. They’re physically healthier too, and being able to go outside and get fresh air whenever they want is clearly a bonus.

So it’s hardly surprising that Hogeway is now inspiring other care providers to follow suit.

tasmania village

Last week, plans to create Australia’s first dementia village were revealed. The £15m project is set to be built in Tasmania, providing accommodation for 90 people in 15 small, tailored homes. Like the Dutch model it will also have a supermarket, cinema, cafes, salons and gardens. Residents will be housed in sections based on interests and lifestyles, so that they’re more likely to get on or at least share a mutual understanding. ‘If you’ve always worked in a trade you’re probably used to getting up early, knocking off for lunch, finishing at around 3pm. So if you live with other tradespeople there’s more likely to be companionship or opportunities to have similar interests,’ explains project manager Lucy O’Flaherty.

Germany and Switzerland and Canada have also studied the Hogeway model and may create their own dementia villages. A £17million dementia village is already thought to be underway in Switzerland

Meanwhile, developers in Southern California are also developing their own version of the Dutch village in San Diego. Glenner Town Square will open next year and be the first dementia village in the US.

The retro style town (think USA 50 years ago) will have 24 buildings and 12 storefronts —including a restaurant, barbershop, pet store, library, post office, museum and cinema. Unlike Hogeway however it won’t be residential. People with dementia will be able to spend the day exploring the town with friends and family, whilst dementia care professionals keep a close eye.

The people behind the $3m Glenner Town Square have big plans for dementia villages. ‘The plan is to build these villages first throughout California, and then to expand nationally,’ says developer Scott Tarde.

The dementia village concept has not been without criticism. Those opposed to the idea say it manipulates people with dementia, creating a ‘Truman Show’ version of reality. But critics are in a minority, most people are totally totally captivated.

Whilst Glenner Town might be very different to Hogeway (we can’t help thinking it sounds more like a theme park than a home) it certainly seems as if dementia villages are here to stay. How much it might cost to live in one is another matter…