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Living with dementia in the Netherlands

The Dutch have taken care in the community to the next level with Hogeweyk, a village that was designed and developed specifically for people with dementia.

How do you enable people with dementia to enjoy the freedom of independent living, safely and securely? The answer is simple. Design them a purpose-built community, with streets, squares, gardens, a supermarket, a restaurant, a bar and a theatre. Then add the kind of 24-hour support they would receive in a care facility.

That's exactly what has happened in Weesp, a small town in the north of The Netherlands, formerly most famous as the birthplace of one of the country's leading brands of chocolate. This historic settlement on the Amsterdam-Rhine Canal is the location of Hogeweyk, a ground-breaking dementia care solution, comprising a gated community with 23 homes for 152 elderly people. With the help of a team of 250 carers and medical staff, residents manage their own households and have the freedom to walk around the village to go shopping, socialise or relax in one of the green spaces.

Designed by architects Molenaar & Bol & Van Dillen and landscaped by Niek Roozen bv, this pioneering project was the brainchild of occupational therapist Yvonne Van Amerongen and colleagues at Hogeweyk's forerunner, a traditional nursing home called Hogewey. Costing 19.3 million euros, the revolutionary dementia village was opened in 2009 and is managed by the government-owned company Vivium.

Hogeweyk's care model is inspired by life in wider Dutch society. Residents co-habit with others who share their social status, values and culture. There are seven distinct 'lifestyles': Goois (upper class), homey, Christian, artisan, Indonesian and cultural.  The design, decor and day-to-day living in each home reflect its 'lifestyle'. For example, in an artisan home the layout is solid and traditional, and the emphasis is on activities such as baking and sewing. In a Gooi home the environment is classic and stylish with residents enjoying high tea, fine dining and visits to classical music concerts.

"There are six pillars to the model," said Yvonne in an interview with the global innovation platform Aging 2.0, "and all are equally important: favourable surroundings, life’s pleasures, employees and volunteers, health, organisation, and lifestyle."

Hogeweyk has won several awards and its innovative approach to dementia care is now being replicated in other countries. In December last year, the Whare Aroha Care dementia village opened on the shores of beautiful Lake Rotorua in New Zealand. There are also plans to build a similar community next to Caulfield Hospital in Victoria, Australia.

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