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."

News
peoplePolice were acting on arrest warrant after actor fled US in 1977
News
Apple CEO Tim Cook
people
Arts and Entertainment
Ukip leader Nigel Farage has been fined £200 by the Electoral Commission
tvNot a nightmare, but the plot of a new TV mockumentary
Travel
<p><strong>15. Plas Teg Mansion, Flintshire</strong></p>
<p>Plas Teg, a Jacobean house near the the village of Pontblyddyn, Flintshire between Wrexham and Mold, is said to be one of Wales' most haunted buildings. One of its late owners was the infamous 'hanging' Judge Jeffries, who is thought to have held court in the home and had people convicted and hanged in the dining room. Reports of paranormal activity include heavy breathing in one bedroom and the spirit of a young girl appearing in the Blue Bedroom.</p>
travel
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
Mock the tweet: Ukip leader Nigel Farage and comedian Frankie Boyle
peopleIt was a polite exchange of words, as you can imagine
Life and Style
fashion
Life and Style
Britons buy more than 30 million handsets each year, keeping them for an average of 18 months
tech
Arts and Entertainment
TV Presenters Ant McPartlin and Dec Donnelly. Winners of the 'Entertainment Programme' award for 'Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway'
musicAnt and Dec confirmed as hosts of next year's Brit Awards
Arts and Entertainment
Orson Welles made Citizen Kane at 25, and battled with Hollywood film studios thereafter
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SEN Teaching Assistant needed for long term assignment

£45 - £55 per day: Randstad Education Preston: We are looking for an experienc...

Primary Teachers Required in King's Lynn

Negotiable: Randstad Education Cambridge: Primary Teachers needed in King's Ly...

Primary Teachers needed in Ely

Negotiable: Randstad Education Cambridge: Primary Teacher needed in the Ely ar...

Teaching Assistant to work with Autistic students

£60 - £65 per day: Randstad Education Leicester: Randstad Education Leicester ...

Day In a Page

Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes
Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs:

Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs

"I have never regarded anything I have done in "the media" as a proper job"
Lyricist Richard Thomas shares his 11-step recipe for creating a hit West End musical

11-step recipe for creating a West End hit

Richard Thomas, the lyricist behind the Jerry Springer and Anna Nicole Smith operas, explains how Bob Dylan, 'Breaking Bad' and even Noam Chomsky inspired his songbook for the new musical 'Made in Dagenham'
Tonke Dragt's The Letter for the King has finally been translated into English ... 50 years on

Buried treasure: The Letter for the King

The coming-of-age tale about a boy and his mission to save a mythical kingdom has sold a million copies since it was written by an eccentric Dutchwoman in 1962. Yet until last year, no one had read it in English
Can instilling a sense of entrepreneurship in pupils have a positive effect on their learning?

The school that means business

Richard Garner heads to Lancashire, where developing the 'dragons' of the future is also helping one community academy to achieve its educational goals
10 best tablets

The world in your pocket: 10 best tablets

They’re thin, they’re light, you can use them for work on the move or keeping entertained
Lutz Pfannenstiel: The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents

Lutz Pfannenstiel interview

The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents
Pete Jenson: Popular Jürgen Klopp can reignite Borussia Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern Munich

Pete Jenson's a Different League

Popular Klopp can reignite Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern
John Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

The use of the British hostage demonstrates once again the militants' skill and originality in conducting a propaganda war, says Patrick Cockburn
The killer instinct: The man who helps students spot potential murderers

The killer instinct

Phil Chalmers travels the US warning students how to spot possible future murderers, but can his contentious methods really stop the bloodshed?
Clothing the gap: A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd

Clothing the gap

A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd
Fall of the Berlin Wall: Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain

The Fall of the Berlin Wall

Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain