One of the hardest and saddest things in the world is watching a loved one lose themselves to dementia or Alzheimer’s. Personally, I have a 96-year-old grandmother that suffers from dementia and hasn’t been able to recognize me for many, many years. As the Boomer generation continues to age, there will be a large need for care. In urban areas like ours, where square footage is at a premium, it might not be possible to take in a loved one to care for. There are several facilities in NYC and northern NJ that are at or near capacity and are very expensive, around $10k – $15k per month. Aside from the costs and distances, some of these locations cannot offer the quality of life that you would want for your family member.
A Dutch architect, Frank van Dillen came up with an amazing solution to this problem called De Hogeweyk, or Dementia Village. In effect, it is a small village, complete with streets, gardens, stores, restaurants, theatres, and more that is staffed completely by trained care professionals. It’s more than an assisted living facility. It’s a community that is built around the residents’ former lifestyle. Residents engage in normal daily activities like grocery shopping and going to a coffee shop, all with specially trained staff who take an evidence-based approach to their care.
Carol Blum, a local Jersey City realtor whose mother is suffering from advanced dementia, is championing the cause to get a project like this built in our area. “With lower land costs, I think a facility in JC could be competitive financially. An important criteria when picking a facility for a family member is proximity to your home so you can visit regularly. Jersey City is convenient to both Northern NJ and NYC.”
Dementia Village in Holland is built on four acres, allotting around 700 sq. ft. per resident. There is currently another village opening in Italy and one in Canada. They create a familiar, “normal” environment that dementia patients understand. “We protect our residents from the unsafe world. They do not understand the world outside this because the outside world doesn’t understand them,” says Yvonne van Amerongen, an employee at Hogeweyk who also helped develop the concept. “You will see [residents] sitting in a restaurant with a glass of wine or buying a box of chocolates from the supermarket,” for those that still understand the concept of money.
It wouldn’t be necessary to have a “stand alone” location for a facility like this and could easily be incorporated into a larger apartment or building complex, such as the future Canal Crossing slated to open near the Garfield Lightrail Station or along the 440 corridor. Jersey City is looking to lead the way in innovations and has much room to grow. A project like this could bring a lot of notice to the city as well as giving those suffering from these ailments a sense of freedom and dignity.
If you are a developer, builder or investor that would like to discuss this further, please reach out to Carol Blum at 917-532-8416 or [email protected]
For more information watch this video with CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta.