Switzerland's 'Dementiaville' designed to mirror the past

Plan to build 1950s-style village for Alzheimer's sufferers divides geriatric-care experts

Its detractors may end up dubbing it "Dementiaville", but Switzerland is brushing aside a debate raging among geriatric-care experts with plans to build a mock-1950s village catering exclusively for elderly sufferers of Alzheimer's and other debilitating mental illnesses.

The newly approved €20m (£17m) housing project is to be built next to the Swiss village of Wiedlisbach near Bern and will provide sheltered accommodation and care for 150 elderly dementia patients in 23 purpose-built 1950s-style houses. The homes will be deliberately designed to recreate the atmosphere of times past.

The scheme's promoters said there will be no closed doors and residents will be free to move about. To reinforce an atmosphere of normality, the carers will dress as gardeners, hairdressers and shop assistants. The only catch is that Wiedlisbach's inhabitants will not be allowed to leave the village.

A similar pioneering, yet controversial, approach to geriatric mental care is already under way in Holland, where the Hogewey nursing home for dementia sufferers was set up in an Amsterdam suburb in 2009. Its residents pay €5,000 a month to live in a world of carefully staged illusion.

Markus Vögtlin, the Swiss entrepreneur behind the Wiedlisbach scheme, visited Hogewey before launching his own project and is full of enthusiasm for the Dutch approach. "People with dementia are often restless and aggressive, but at Hogewey they were relaxed and content," Mr Vögtlin told Switzerland's Tages-Anzeiger newspaper.He said that his plan to house dementia sufferers in 1950s- style houses with front gardens was designed to increase patients' sense of security. He said they had difficulty remembering what was happening at present but usually had firm memories of the past. "Such an environment makes them feel comfortable. I call it travelling back in time," he said.

Switzerland, like the rest of Europe, is struggling to cope with an elderly and growing population of dementia sufferers. There are 107,000 elderly people afflicted with mental illness and that figure is expected to double over the next 20 years.

Yet not all geriatric-care specialists are convinced that creating an illusory world is the right approach. Michael Schmieder, director of Switzerland's Sonnweid home that caters to 150 resident dementia patients, said he opposed the idea of creating an illusory 1950s-era atmosphere. "The very notion is an attempt to fake the normality that people with dementia don't have," he said.

Mr Schmieder's care home offers complete freedom of movement for its residents. "We offer wellness, just like a four-star hotel," Mr Schmieder said. "Our patients are living in the here and now, not back then."

But Switzerland's Alzheimer's Association, which promotes a variety of schemes to help sufferers from the disease, said it supports the project. Its spokesman, Birgitta Martensson, denied that it was creating a ghetto for the mentally ill. "Different types of care programmes are needed because the illness has different stages," she said. "A dementia village is a good solution for people in advanced stages of the disease."

VIDEO
News
people
Life & Style
The new low cost smartphone of Motorola, 'Motorola Moto G', is displayed in Sao Paulo, Brazil on November 13, 2013. The smartphone, with dimensions 65.9mm W x 129.9mm H x 6.0 - 11.6mm D is equipped with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 with quad-core 1,2 GHz CPU, a 4.5-inch display and Android Operating System 4.3 and a suggested price of $ 179 USD.
techData assessing smartphones has revealed tens of millions of phones are at risk of being harvested
Arts & Entertainment
Jessica Pare as Megan Draper and Jon Hamm as the troubled, melancholy Don Draper
tvAnd six other questions we hope Mad Men series seven will answer
Arts & Entertainment
Cody and Paul Walker pictured in 2003.
film
News
David Beckham is planning to build a stadium in Miami’s port for a new football team he will own
news... in his fight for a football stadium in Miami's port area
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Group: TAs, LSAs and Support Workers needed in ...

Eye for Detail?

£41000 - £48000 per annum + Benefits: Pro-Recruitment Group: Eye for Detail? S...

Senior Infrastructure Consultant

£50000 - £65000 Per Annum potentially flexible for the right candidate: Clearw...

Public Sector Audit - Bristol

£38000 per annum + Benefits: Pro-Recruitment Group: Do you have experience of ...

Day In a Page

Homelessness: Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

Zubairi Sentongo swapped poverty in Uganda for homelessness in Britain. But a YMCA scheme connected him with a couple offering warmth and shelter
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park
The pain of IVF

The pain of IVF

As an Italian woman vows to keep the babies from someone else’s eggs, Julian Baggini ponders how the reality of childbirth is often messier than the natural ideal
Supersize art

Is big better? Britain's latest super-sized art

The Kelpies are the latest addition to a growing army of giant sculptures. But naysayers are asking what a pair of gigantic horse heads tells us about Falkirk?
James Dean: Back on the big screen

James Dean: Back on the big screen

As 'Rebel without a Cause' is re-released, Geoffrey Macnab reveals how its star perfected his moody act
Catch-22: How the cult classic was adapted for the stage

How a cult classic was adapted for the stage

More than half a century after it was published 'Catch-22' will make its British stage debut next week
10 best activity books for children

10 best activity books for children

Keep little ones busy this bank holiday with one of these creative, educational and fun books
Arsenal 3 West Ham United 1: Five things we learnt from the battle between the London sides

Five things we learnt from Arsenal's win over West Ham

Arsenal still in driving seat for Champions League spot and Carroll can make late charge into England’s World Cup squad
Copa del Rey final: Barcelona are paying for their complacency and not even victory over Real Madrid will put things right

Pete Jenson on the Copa del Rey final

Barcelona are paying for their complacency and not even victory over Real Madrid will put things right
Rafa to reign? Ten issues clay courts will serve up this season

Rafa to reign? Ten issues clay courts will serve up this season

With the tennis circus now rolling on to the slowest surface, Paul Newman highlights who'll be making the headlines – and why
Exclusive: NHS faces financial disaster in 2015 as politicians urged to find radical solution

NHS faces financial disaster in 2015

Politicians urged to find radical solution
Ukraine crisis: How spontaneous are the pro-Russian protests breaking out in Ukraine’s east?

Ukraine crisis

How spontaneous are the pro-Russian protests breaking out in Ukraine’s east?
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: The first execution at the Tower of London for 167 years

The first execution at the Tower of London for 167 years

A history of the First World War in 100 moments
Fires could turn Amazon rainforest into a desert as human activity and climate change threaten ‘lungs of the world’, says study

New threat to the Amazon rainforest:

Fires that scorch the ‘lungs of the Earth’
Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester City: And the winner of this season’s Premier League title will be...

Who’s in box seat now? The winner of the title will be ...

Who is in best shape to take the Premier League prize?