Dementia Village 'De Hogeweyk' in Weesp
Text: Isabelle Rupprecht
Located close to Amsterdam, 'De Hogeweyk' is a village-style neighbourhood for elderly residents with dementia, offering maximum mobility and an opportunity to lead a normal and active daily life. The innovative care concept, which is based on the requirements of the residents, is attracting a lot of attention.
Architects: Molenaar&Bol&VanDillen architekten, Vught
Location: Heemraadweg 1, 1382 GV Weesp, Netherlands
Inside the complex, there is a park with a pond, a long boulevard, several squares with cafés and restaurants, as well as a theatre square. There is enough space to allow for the pronounced urge to move typical for the illness, and there are plenty of areas for communication and social exchange. Although people suffering from Alzheimer's disease are often still very fit physically, they have problems with memory and mental capacity. They feel disoriented and can't manage without help. Here they can move about freely on the grounds without having to worry about not finding their way back home again. A total of 23 apartments are provided on a gross floor space of 12,000 m2. The row houses with clinker brick facing are no more than two storeys high and contain one double room and seven single rooms each. 152 senior citizens live in 'De Hogeweyk' at the moment.
As opposed to normal care homes, the elderly residents share bungalows. They can continue living in the manner they are used to there, with the necessary intensive supervision taking place behind the scenes. Carers, who look after up to seven persons each, are integrated in the everyday life of the elderly, appearing as supermarket salespersons, housemates, domestic services staff or family members. They accompany the dementia patients wherever they go, but let them make their own decisions.
Although the patients are well looked after, they don’t feel locked in. This is directly reflected by a more positive frame of mind of the residents, which in turn has led to a drop in the medication required compared to the old care home in Weesp replaced by the housing complex in 2009.
The care concept aims to permit the elderly to live an everyday life which is as normal as possible. They can do domestic chores together with the carers. Residents can even do their own shopping in the supermarket if they wish – just as normal, only that they don't have to pay here and any non-sense purchases are returned by a carer later.
Individual interior decoration is intended to make residents feel at home in familiar surroundings. The residential areas are divided into different lifestyles allocated to the elderly on the basis of their past preferences. An opinion research institute analysed the seven most common environments in the Netherlands for this purpose, resulting in the following categories: traditional, city, wealthy, cultural, Christian, Indian and homely.
The elderly live together in groups of six, seven or eight, with others who share their interests. Joint activities and looking after each other are important elements of life at ‘De Hogeweyk’.
Just like its predecessor, the dementia village is located right in the middle of a residential area. Although closed towards the outside for security reasons, part of the complex is accessible to the public.