A dementia breakthrough

Sunday June 16, 2013

Reporter: Alex Cullen

Producer: Alex Hodgkinson

On the outskirts of Amsterdam, one thoroughly unconventional nursing home is changing the way we treat those living with Alzheimer’s disease.

At first glance, it seems like any other high-end retirement complex: the residents are served meals, listen to live music and even do their shopping at a small supermarket. Designed like a village, Hogewey nursing home is actually an illusion: all the staff in the ‘village’ - the servants, the publican, the music teacher, the shopkeeper, the hairdresser – are actually trained nurses and carers.

This somewhat artificial existence serves a very real purpose: to lessen the distressing effects of dementia.
Giving sufferers the illusion of independence may seem strange to some, but as reporter Alex Cullen discovers, it’s proving an effective treatment against the disease.

While Hogewey is home to the most severe dementia sufferers in Holland, is a place where everyone is happy. There’s freedom for residents to live life as they always have, and consequently they need less medication, and are active for much longer than patients in a traditional nursing home.

Music has also proven to be one incredibly powerful method of ‘unlocking’ those suffering the degenerative effects of Alzheimer’s. In footage from the film Alive Inside, we see the instant rejuvenation one elderly dementia sufferer experiences when he’s given a pair of headphones.

Back in Australia, Cullen speaks to Christine Bryden, a dementia sufferer who was diagnosed in 1995 when she was only 46 years old and has written extensively about her experiences with the disease. As she tells Sunday Night, our own aged care authorities seem sorely lacking in their attitudes to dementia when compared to our friends in the Netherlands.

With Australia expecting to have one million dementia sufferers by 2050, and other countries predicting similar fourfold increases in numbers, Hogewey’s revolutionary approach to care is one that governments around the world are rushing to replicate.


National Dementia Helpline: 1800 100 500
Christine Bryden
Christine Bryden books
Alive Inside: A Story of Music & Memory. A film by Michael Rossato-Bennett
Alive Inside Kickstarter campaign
Tom Hussey Photography
Baroness Susan Greenfield
Alzheimer’s Australia
Alzheimer’s Disease International – the Global Voice on Dementia
Dementia Advocacy and Support Network