Clipart of a person with a cane being guided by hand by a person in a dress. The two white silohouttes are on a gradient blue background.

Dementia villages and daycares offer a more personal and humane approach to dementia care (Micah Fluellen / Los Angeles Times)


How dementia villages and daycares are evolving the world

Dementia villages have drastically changed dementia treatment and the future for aging.
<a href="" target="_self">Ryan Kim</a>

Ryan Kim

June 23, 2023

Currently, there are over 55 million people with dementia, which will continue to increase as the years move on. Dementia is a term for multiple diseases, known to affect people’s memory, abilities, and thinking. As a result of a German physicist named Alois Alzheimer’s discovery of Alzheimer’s disease in 1907, Alzheimer’s is the most common type of dementia. Even though dementia has no cure, there have been several alternatives to slow its progression, such as villages and daycares that cater to dementia patients.

Dementia villages are a recent product of the world, with the first one, Hogeweyk, opening near Amsterdam in 2009. This village would inspire multiple villages throughout the globe. Dementia villages are essentially ordinary towns where the employees are multidisciplinary staff trained for any purpose, and the residents are those with dementia. 

In a video by Vox titled “How ‘dementia villages’ work”, Eloy Van Hal (the founder of Hogeweyk) articulates specific things, such as how they split the neighborhood into small groups of 6 or 7 to give an image of a single-family home. 

“People stay in their bedrooms. Many people socialize in the living room. But you can also decide to leave the house because the front door is open and walk to your private outdoor space…” Hal said. “So, it’s about choice, choice, choice: where you want to be during the whole day and with whom…”

Dementia villages are not the only first of their kind in dementia treatment. Across the world, a company called Glenner introduced the first dementia daycare called Town Square in California. The daycare has a 1950’s vibe, with diners, vintage cars, and music. Daycares, unlike villages, aren’t 24/7, but this is to make those with dementia more comfortable since they can be at their own home at night rather than somewhere else. Lisa D. Tyburski, the chief marketing officer of Glenner, spoke to me in an interview about the daycare. 

“In 2018, our CEO’s daughter went to Biz Town and loved it. The CEO and I were curious and went to visit it. From there, our CEO decided we should do something like this for people with dementia,” Tyburski said. “We wanted to take our reminiscence therapy to the next level and create an immersive environment where we brought people back to where their memories are the strongest.”

In contrast, many have compared dementia villages/daycares to The Truman Show. Truman Burbank doesn’t realize his entire life is a television show. There are multiple similarities between the movie and dementia villages, such as the residents do not know the town is a center, just like the character Truman. Tyburski disputes this idea. 

“We don’t aim to fool or trick anyone that it’s the 1950s or 1960s. Instead, we have created an environment where people can relate,” Tyburski said. “People with dementia typically lose their short-term memories first, and often their long-term memories are still intact… Living in a world where you don’t recall or resonate with things is incredibly frustrating for people with dementia.” 

One of the prominent causes of dementia agitation is a change in environment or being emotionally overwhelmed. However, dementia agitation has declined in the secure towns, daycares, and atmosphere to provide the residents with safety and reassurance. 

It is important to note that unlike senior centers and care communities, dementia villages, and daycares don’t receive government grants. Government funding is essential, especially for homes without any financial resources. The seniors are at risk of eviction without financial aid, so they must use their retirement funds and loans. 

Tyburski said, “Right now, the only way to receive government funding is to enroll in one of the local PACE Programs (these are all-inclusive programs for the elderly funded by the state, but people need to qualify for MediCal to enroll in PACE)… Other than that, most people have to pay out of pocket.” 

Despite these problems, these villages and daycares have overwhelmingly positive outcomes and should be encouraged more widely. Cases/studies have also shown that dementia villages help more with those with dementia than nursing homes. 

According to a SmithsonianMag article titled “For People with Dementia, Does It Take a Village?,” villages have decreased the need for dementia medication, improving their lifestyle compared to senior centers and nursing homes. Although nursing homes should not be ruled out as an option, towns and daycare facilities offer spacious grounds, providing the care necessary for those with dementia. Accessible villages for seniors, supported by research, can provide specialized care and a supportive community.

When asked if villages should be more accessible to anyone with any condition, Tyburski gave her opinion.

“Our center has helped to better the quality of life for hundreds of people with dementia and their family members. It has provided much-needed socialization and interaction,” Tyburski said, “I would think this type of concept would be helpful to others who don’t have dementia but need care.”

Dementia villages and daycares have emerged as an indispensable elements around the world, having advantages like their expansive open space and residents feeling like themselves. If governments can provide funding and aid, villages and daycares might become a key segment for any senior or person that needs the care they deser.

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