Dementia: A village for the forgetful

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Dementia: A village for the forgetful
Dementia: A village for the forgetful

A village for forgetfuls

The residents of the care facility "Tönebön am See" near Hamelin live in their own world. Does that look like treating people with dementia with dignity?

The first lapse occurs right at the doorstep. "Oh, there's the young man!" I hear as I enter the facility's foyer. A woman, who I guess is in her early 60s, greets me with a friendly, professional tone, as if she was already expecting me. I introduce myself to the supposed employee and refer to my viewing appointment. After a few sentences, she suddenly waves it away. "Yes, yes, what young people do," she murmurs and pushes past me in the direction of the exit. At that moment, a real employee steps in: "But Ms. Herweg, you know that this isn't possible!" She calls out and suggests that she continue her walk in the inner courtyard of the facility. After some back and forth, she shrugs, turns on her heel, and strides away.

The facility I just entered is Germany's first dementia village, called "Tönebön am See". The nursing home is located near a nature reserve on the outskirts of Hamelin in Lower Saxony. Almost 80 residents live here in six communities with evocative names such as "Villa Ziegelhof" or "Villa Wiesengrund". There is a mini market, a hairdresser, a cafe, a large garden with a parrot cage in the courtyard. Only: The little wonderland is surrounded by a fence. The homely atmosphere ends right outside the gates. A busy country road runs alongside the facility, and the two kilometers to the train station pass a campsite, a rubber factory and a building materials store. The residents here are isolated from city life - inclusion looks different. But apparently that's not the primary goal of the facility. It should be a "living space for people with dementia" in which those affected can stay in their own world as undisturbed as possible. Can this work? And: is it even a good idea?

When walking through the houses I keep having to…

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