I came across this article on nextavenue.com. Some content has been edited to better match the language of this blog.. While this article is a bit more dramatic than necessary (talk of the most feared aspect of aging, the negative effects on individuals and societies, how someday people with dementia would be included and independent…), it brings an interesting idea to my mind – what would society look like if dementia were cured? Of course, someday I would love to see my specialty in dementia become obsolete, but I guess I haven’t spent much time considering what the world would look like if and when that happens.
January, 2014, a new residence and care home for aging adults opened in Nørresundby, Denmark (just across the fjord from Aalborg). It’s called Fremtidensplejehjem, which means Nursing Home of the Future, and it’s a new facility that is based on sensory stimulation, keeping active/exercise, and socialization. It incorporates new design, and open and social use of space, and high technologies.
I have been attending public and academic meetings in the community about the Fremtidensplejehjem for about the past 2 or 3 years, so have had a good idea of what they envisioned. I was studying welfare technologies specific to dementia care at Aalborg University, so this new building was particularly interesting for me. Yes, I applied for a job there when they were opening, but, unfortunately was not one of the lucky chosen. Part of the reason could be that they are not focusing on dementia care in Fremtidens – of course they know that they will have residents with dementia (in Denmark, around 85% of those in institutional care have some form of dementia), but they did not adjust the facility to specifically accommodate them. I think this might be motivated by their plan to later build a Dementia Nursing Home of the Future (plans are for this building to open in 2017).
Even though I don’t have paid work there, I live quite close and have grown fond of using their entrance area (with plenty of tables, free wifi, sunlight, and free coffee as my “free range” office. I take my lap top and books, set up at one of the tables, and draw inspiration from the surroundings. I must say, so far, all the staff and residents I have encountered in my “free range” office have been absolutely accommodating and helpful, and it seems as if they also enjoy that people from the community use the public space – it brings a different kind of life to a “nursing home” when it is also a space that people meet up for coffee, for visiting with friends (who may or may not live in the institution), for “free range” working, and for bringing a bit more of the community into the community space. Although it hasn’t happened yet, I imagine when I get into some writers block or stuck on a problem, a leisurely walk along the fjord will get the creative juices flowing again.
Thursday, March 20, 2014, I attended a guided tour of Fremtidens, hosted by Alzheimer Foreningen, the Danish Alzheimer’s Association. The tour was led by a PhD student who has been involved with the project for the past 3 years (I didn’t know they had PhDs or students working on the project – which is a little weird since I was one of maybe 5 people that I knew of at the University studying dementia care and the only one at the University studying technologies for dementia care), and we got to see the IT helpdesk (offered free to the public to help older adults figure out their online services used for banking, healthcare, and other governmental services), the wide hallways, the gym and rehabilitation rooms (also offered free to the public over age 65), common areas such as the Orangium (a space where the residents can hang out with an excellent view of the harbor), kitchens where families can come to cook meals together and the residents make bread on the weekends, the media room (for watching movies, listening to music, or reading – also with a fantastic patio overlooking the harbor), and a few other things.
Digital Journal has written an op-ed article citing one of my research articles!! You can access my 2012 article, “The future of assistive technology for dementia” as an open-source article through the journal Gerontechnology. You can also read the original op-ed by digitaljournal.com.
Op-Ed: Technology helps families cope with challenges of dementia
The challenges of dementia and other age-related conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease are difficult on the patient, family and caregivers alike. Technology eases the burden.