Jerry Rothkoff, principal of Rothkoff Law Group, had the honor of serving as a member of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA) delegation on tour in Amsterdam to understand the health care and legal services provided to seniors in the Netherlands as compared to the United States.
Part of the experience included a visit to the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, with an insider’s introduction to the Unforgettable Program, based on the successful Meet Me at MoMa program in New York City. This program is a guided tour for people with dementia and their caregivers. The main goal is to provide an inspiring, social, and meaningful activity that people with dementia and their caregivers can enjoy together. Rothkoff added, “Interestingly, one museum exhibit brought back memories of my childhood. The museum has a video exhibit of urban cowboys bringing horses to the inner city in North Philadelphia. My dad and grandfather had an office and warehouse blocks from where the video was filmed.”
Rothkoff’s elder law delegation visited Hogeweyk, a specially designed village with 23 houses for 152 dementia-suffering seniors. There is no similar type of specialty designed dementia housing in the United States. Rothkoff explained, “Unlike dementia facilities in the U.S. where all residents reside in the same type of housing, at Hogeweyk, seniors who need nursing home dementia care live in houses differentiated by lifestyle. The residents opinion on life, housing, values and standards determine their “lifestyle”. Hogeweyk offers seven different lifestyles: upper class, rural, Christian, artisan, Indonesian, cultural, and traditional.”
Every Hogeweyk home houses six to eight people with the same lifestyle. People live together with other people sharing the same ideas and values in life. This makes the place where one lives a home. This lifestyle can be seen in the decor and layout of the house, the interaction in the group and with the members of staff, day to day activities and the way these activities are carried out. The residents manage their own households together with a constant team of staff members. Washing, cooking and so on is done every day in all of the houses. Daily groceries are done in the Hogeweyk supermarket . The village has streets, squares, gardens and a park where the residents can safely roam free. Hogeweyk also offers a restaurant, a bar and a theatre. These facilities can be used by Hogeweyk residents AND residents of the surrounding neighborhoods. Everybody is welcome to come in.
Rothkoff added, “Such a concept needs to be brought to the United States to reshape the face of senior care housing. It will take significant time, money, effort, and advocacy, but as Bruce Springsteen has written, ‘talk about a dream, try to make it real’. Let’s get started!”