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Liz's visit to The Hogeweyk


Liz Dennis recently visited The Hogeweyk dementia ‘village’ in the Netherlands. The minds behind Hogeweyk wanted to create a space where people living with dementia could continue to live as usual and thereby benefit from more dignified and effective dementia care.


Residents of the village live in houses of 7 older people along with 2 professional care workers. Each house decides its own meals, which typically are eaten together. Residents are placed in houses matched with people with similar interests, outlooks and lifestyles, so that genuine connection and friendships can blossom. Independence with simple everyday tasks is encouraged. Food for meals is chosen by each house and the laundry is also done within each house, not outsourced, as it would be in any other large care facility.  Life here is as close to normal life as it can be, with each house performing as an independent entity, as in the outside world.



The Hogeweyk is just like any other neighbourhood in that its members are free to

shop, take meals at a cafe, visit the hairdressers, walk in the grounds, tend to the plants, or maybe just sit in the sunshine whenever they please.There are daily events for people to attend, e.g. baking, a classical concert, theatre or bingo.

 

Interestingly all residents of Hogeweyk have been officially determined to have severe dementia, yet this was not apparent. People appeared to be going about their day as anyone else would. As Eloy van Hal, founder of The Hogeweyk, said they “stroll, not wander around”, stopping to chat or to garden. There is a simple beauty to the place.

 

Eloy highlighted that many who visit the village, as professional observers, often become tearful during their visit. On discussing why this might be one proposed reason was that it really does challenge perceptions of what late stage dementia care looks like with this uncomplicated, dignified concept. Eloy, however, suggested it was because people could see it was an opportunity missed. It’s a good point, the village is now 22 years old, and back then the founders felt it would be out of date in 10 years. Sadly progress in dementia care is depressingly slow, and some two decades later the model is still seen as the future. That said, the Hogeweyk template is increasingly being replicated globally, proving that momentum is moving in the right direction.




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