With support from ISCE, six students enrolled in the Presidential Global Scholars Program sponsored by the Virginia Tech Honors College visited a special gated village called Hogeweyk. Located in the Netherlands, this pioneering, award-winning care facility for older persons with severe dementia has 23 houses, theatre, supermarket, outpatient care unit and a restaurant. In addition, Hogeweyk has over 30 clubs to entertain their residents with several of the clubs having specifically designed rooms for their purpose. For example, the classical music club meets in a formal room with classical instruments on the wall, chandeliers on the ceiling, and busts of famous composers on the side of the room.
Prior to their visit, the students reviewed information about the care facility. After their visit, the students met with met with Karen Roberto, ISCE’s Director, to discuss what they learned and to prepare for a presentation they gave for their PGS peers. The students reflected on how the founders of the Hogeweyk designed the facility and the structure of the care to normalize life as much as possible. From cooking their own meals to walking around freely, Hogeweyk provides a holistic approach to person-centered care. The physical environment contributes to the founders’ goal of normalizing life. Five to seven residents share a home. They choose from four different lifestyles -- traditional, urban, cultural, and formal – which provides residents some sense of familiarity and decreases anxiety and agitation often associated with dementia. Residents determine their own rhythm, facilitated by nurses and other employees. Some of the houses are located close to Da Passage, a mall-like area with a restaurant, café, supermarket and club rooms, so there is a lot of activity; there are other houses farther away from the center of the village for residents who may want more of a quiet or isolated lifestyle. A quiet pond and benches circle around those homes.
From this experiential learning opportunity the students gained insight into the differences between the Dutch and American perspectives on healthcare, long-term care, dementia, and aging. In describing their experience, the comment of one of the student captured the sentiment of the group, “ it was a real eye-opener. I didn’t realize just how affective a community like De Hogeweyk could be for people with dementia. I left De Hogeweyk with the hopes that there will be more facilities like this in other places, perhaps even in the U.S. one day.”