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Towns Resembling 1950s Being Made To Help Dementia Patients

October 10th, 2018

Alzheimer’s and dementia are serious and heartbreaking diseases. Neither have a cure, and few treatments are successful at managing the symptoms of these illnesses. Medical science is always looking for new ways to fight these diseases.

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San Diego Opera Source: San Diego Opera

George G. Glenner Alzheimer’s Family Care Centers recently found a way to help those suffering live more normal lives.

It recently opened a care center called the Town Square. It’s a care center that is designed to look like a town from the 1950s, a time when many Alzheimer’s sufferers were hitting important milestones. The idea behind the town is to help the patients feel more comfortable and bring them back to a time that they can remember.

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Glenners Alzheimer's Center Source: Glenners Alzheimer's Center

The center uses a process call reminiscent therapy.

According to the George G. Glenner Alzheimer’s Family Care Centers website:

“Reminiscence Therapy is a type of therapy that utilizes tangible prompts from a person’s past to elicit memories. Reminiscence Therapy (RT) has also been defined as ‘involves the discussion of past activities, events, and experiences with another person or group of people, usually with the aid of tangible prompts such as photographs, household, and other familiar items from the past, music and archive sound recordings.’ Reminiscence therapy is one of the most popular psychosocial interventions in dementia care and is highly rated by staff and participants. There is some evidence to suggest it is effective in improving mood in older people without dementia.”

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San Diego Opera Source: San Diego Opera

Many people wonder why the care center chose to make the town date back to a specific time period.

It’s all related to studies on aging and memories. The care center’s website explains:

“Studies have shown that our strongest memories are constructed from the ages of 10-30. The reason being is that this is when the most significant life events occur – graduation from high school, college, first job, weddings, birth of children. That said, a majority of our participants are now in their early eighties. Our participants, who are currently 82 (in 2017), were born in in 1935 and would have been 18 in 1953.”

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San Diego History Center Source: San Diego History Center

While the Town Square is set up to be a fun way to allow patients to remember and interact, the creators also wanted to make sure it was safe.

There are staff members all around to help the patients when needed. Several aspects of the town were designed for specific reasons. The website says:

“Town Square was designed to be entertaining and fun, but great care was taken to make the space safe and dementia-friendly as well. For example,

“• The Time Warp space allows for a ‘neutral transition zone’ from 2018 to 1953

“• Plexi-glass was used in all windows for safety

“• Flooring choices avoid distracting patterns

“• Signage was created using larger fonts and bright colors

“• No mirrors are hung in the bathrooms/minimal reflective surfaces

“• 24-foot ceilings to create a realistic urban space

“• Skylights allow for natural light

“• Ceilings were included in certain storefronts for sound control

“• Storefronts serve as backdrops for structured programming

“• Realistic, non-juvenile, era-specific tangible prompts in all storefronts (authentic and replica)”

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John Rowley Source: John Rowley

Scott Tarde, the CEO of the Glenner Centers, was partly influenced by Hogeweyk 1, a dementia-care facility in the Netherlands.

He saw how much progress the patients were making there and wanted to bring something similar to San Diego.

Once he got the project approved, he made sure the proper research was done to ensure that the town was accurate and perfect for the patients. He wanted all of the buildings to match those around in the 1930s through ‘50s. Tarde said:

“Graduation from high school, college, first jobs, marriage, perhaps children—these are the milestones, typically, in life. That 20-year period seems to be where memories are the strongest.”

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San Diego Opera Source: San Diego Opera

Glenner Town Square is now open and is the first care center of its kind in the United States.

According to Daniel Sewell, a clinical psychiatry professor at UC San Diego and an unpaid medical adviser on Glenner’s board:

“Studies have found that the therapy improves both cognitive function and quality of life; the hope is that a fully immersive environment like Town Square could enhance these effects by an order of magnitude.”

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Source: The Atlantic

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