scandalous ads and alzheimers

I don’t know about you, but I’ve noticed a difference in ‘scandalous’ ad content over the course of my lifetime. Where the big scandal of my teenage years were those ads about  tampons (remember when all you had to do to ride a horse was use a tampon…), the scandal of a few years ago required me to explain a four hour erection to my toddler son. And now those little blue pill ads are being outnumbered by the ads for vaginal dryness. I think the message is that we are getting older. And if my recently passed 102 year old uncle is any indication, living longer. En masse.

So what about the really serious issues of old age? My family traveled the Alzheimer’s road with my mom. When we could no longer care for her we found an amazing facility to help us with her care. But for her it was frightening and unfamiliar as a result of her diminishing understanding of the world and her surroundings. As the numbers of dementia patients grows with our aging population, this is a problem of heroic proportions that needs a solution. The kernel of a solution was planted in The Netherlands a few years ago: Hogewey. And I’m seeing some press noise that says a facility is in the works right here on our California central coast.

Hogewey is a brilliant architectural design solution to a very serious cultural and social issue. Rather than building a nice big hospital building with better finishes, Hogewey is a closed community of buildings including housing, shopping and recreation all connected by outdoor public spaces that allow residents freedom of movement and access to a variety of environments. Just like in real life…the life that their diminishing faculties don’t allow them to participate in fully or safely.

Possibly the most brilliant part of this overall wonderful design solution is the availability of varying ‘styles’ of housing. Hogewey is comprised of 23 housing units that include 7 different ‘lifestyle groups’. Each lifestyle group is designed to accommodate several residents whose backgrounds share similar traits: christian, wealthy, homey, cultured, etc. Each home is designed to look and act like the environment from which the residents come and provides familiarity and comfort that goes far beyond the ‘one size fits all’ environments of most elder care facilities. Each lifestyle group includes furnishings, accessories and colors that mimic what might be found in the residents’ own homes.

In my own experience with my mother, the most difficult part of her journey was change. As she grew less and less able to comprehend her surroundings, the familiar became her solace. Hogewey is the greatest step in the right direction that I’ve seen in elder care. And yes, I do take this very personally.

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