Monday 8 December 2014

The Truman Show, Music & Dementia Village

"For those who have forgotten who they are. For those who no longer count time. For those to whom love and care is all that matters. Dementia Village Architects creates custom living environments for elderly people with dementia. No big anonymous buildings, but instead manageable and pleasant residential areas. Where it is comfortable for everyone to live. Where residents feel safe at home. Where they enjoy living out their final days, connected with family, caregivers and healthcare providers. Where they can enjoy the precious life they were used to and still want to lead." 
Dementia Village Architects

In December 2009, a village was founded in the Netherlands, one for people with Alzheimer's Disease. Hogeweyk in the municipality of Weesp, on the outskirts of Amsterdam, has a town square, supermarket, theatre, pub, hairdressing salon, garden, post office, restaurant (via), green areas, i.e. parks and gardens designed by the landscape architect Niek Roozen, 160 inhabitants and 250 geriatric nurses and specialists whose 24-hours-a-day occupations range from cashier to grocery-store attendees and post-office clerks. The residents live in "lifestyle groups", in groups of six to seven persons who share similar interests and backgrounds (via). They live in houses together with one or two caretakers. The decor, design and furniture of each house is based on the design of furniture at the time the residents' short-term memories decreased. Homes resemble the 1950s, the 1970s, or the 2000s - a narrative reality with many recognisable stimuli.
Cameras monitor the residents, caretakers in street clothes take care of the residents. Family and friends are encouraged to visit as often as they can. According to reports, the residents need fewer medications, eat better, live longer and appear more joyful than those living in elderly-care facilities. And, they are more active as they spend comparatively much time outside. By contrast, nursing-home residents go outside for just 96 seconds a day. Hogeweyk residents engage in a community instead of feeling isolated; isolation makes the disease worse. Living in the village does not cure but it creates an environment "around life rather than death" (via).

"Into Oblivion" is a project of Maja Daniels, who photographed life within a geriatric hospital for three years. Based on the "principle of precaution", the so-called Protected Unit is "home to residents with Alzheimer’s disease. Due to tendencies to wander about and potentially get lost, they are confined within the ward. A locked door separates the occupants from the rest of the hospital." Within the secured area, residents can circulate freely "but due to a lack of activities and a limited presence of carers in the ward, the locked door becomes the centre of attention for the elders who question the obstruction and attempt to force it open. The daily struggle with the door, damaged due to repeated attempts to pick the lock, can last for hours."
This series documents not only the day-to-day challenges in an often ignored sector, but also the wider implications of the growing populations of elderly in modern society as an increasing life span has coincided with the breakdown of the family unit.
These aspects have caused a growing disregard for the elderly, swept aside by a commercially driven, youth-obsessed culture. As growing old and being dependent is more taboo than ever, the geriatric institution hides our elders away, safely out of sight. Maja Daniels

::: "Alive Inside", beautiful, beautiful, beautiful trailer: watch

"Dan Cohen, founder of the nonprofit organization Music & Memory, fights against a broken healthcare system to demonstrate music's ability to combat memory loss and restore a deep sense of self to those suffering from it." The full movie (1:17:51): watch

images via