It’s been 10 years since a Dutch senior housing nonprofit opened a groundbreaking nursing home for people with dementia that was designed to look and feel like a small village. Residents of Hogeweyk can enjoy outdoor gardens when they wish, shop at a grocery store, help make dinner, and visit a pub or storefront club.
The “dementia village” quickly earned admiring stories from newspapers and television programs. Experts on aging from around the world toured frequently. Studies supported the idea that living in the village is associated with better behavior, social interaction, and satisfaction. Yet, its approach to care, based on a holistic vision of maintaining normalcy and quality time in late life, remains unusual.
Eloy van Hal, who helped found the village and now consults with others interested in replicating the concept, came to the Doubletree Suites by Hilton in Mount Laurel this week as a low-key proselytizer. He spoke at a conference on the future of elder care sponsored by the Rothkoff Law Group, which specializes in aging issues. Jerold Rothkoff, managing attorney for the practice, was among those who visited Hogeweyk, outside Amsterdam, in 2016. He was so impressed that he wanted to share the idea with the more than 220 people who signed up for the conference. Rothkoff thinks the model could work in the United States and that baby boomers will find its emphasis on individualized care and living in smaller, more family-like units attractive.
Van Hal said the concept was a tough sell in the Netherlands. Like the United States, his country heavily regulates nursing homes, and there were many concerns about safety. If residents with severe dementia could walk outside, they might fall or jump into the fountains. It seemed dangerous to let them prepare food with knives. “Many people said, ‘You’re completely insane,’ ” van Hal said.
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