What is dementia-positive design?

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BEFORE: First two photos in the set

AFTER: Third photo in the set

Dementia-positive design is not a concept that gets talked about frequently enough. It’s the idea that because people with dementia live in a different world than we do, we need to be able to adjust their environment accordingly. I think that the best example of this is Hogeweyk, a “dementia village” in Weesp, Netherlands.

Hogeweyk is set up like a little town. There’s a bank, a grocery store, a post office, and more. The people who live there have dementia, and they go about their days in a normal way, because they are treated normally. The caregiving staff actually “work” in the shops and in residents’ homes, but they do not treat the residents as if they have a problem. 

I love this concept, and I have done my best—wherever I am working—to use these same principles. I have created nurseries for baby dolls, pet shops for stuffed animals, and, above, a “5 & Dime” soda fountain counter in a skilled nursing facility. 

People with dementia do not only need great physical care, they also need an environment that fits where they believe that they are living. The 5 & Dime space  I created fits their world-view: for many of them, it is not 2017. What they see around them now is familiar, comforting, and normal. 

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Rachael Wonderlin has a Master’s in Gerontology and is the author of two published books with Johns Hopkins University Press. She owns Dementia By Day, a dementia care consulting company.

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