Thursday, March 6, 2014

A New World for Dementia Patients

In Holland, a "village" has been created solely for those with dementia or Alzhiemer's. This place known as De Hogeweyk or "DementiaVillage" is shut off to the outside world, even the caretakers blend in by wearing street clothes. I have to wonder if these people with dementia are even aware of the situation or that the caretakers are caretakers and not just another person.

For the villagers, this is "real" life. The concept reminded me of The Truman Show-- those with dementia wouldn't know the difference between the village and the outside world. In fact, like Truman, they would think it was the outside world. It is the third order of simulacra according to Baudrillaud. Baudrillaud said, "It is no longer a question of imitation, nor duplication, nor even parody. It is question of substituting the signs of the real for the real." The creators have duplicated the real for those with dementia. Each person has an apartment with roommates, they can shop at a grocery store or go to a restaurant, and get their hair done. They live in a miniature version of the world.

Then, since we are aware of the fact that this village is "real" is it not hyperreal? Is it only hyperreal to those who live within it, unknown to the fact that they are restrained to just this small world? The village is basically a safe simulation of life because those with dementia don't know the difference, unlike say the caretakers. The founders of the village said the thought was so that those with dementia could live a "normal" life. But who is to say what is normal? Perhaps this village is nothing like what someone's life was like outside. It is a "fantasy" world. These people are here because it is deemed safer for them. Perhaps, but if it is a simulation then who is to say that it does not serve the same dangers as life outside? And is it ethical to place people in a "trapped" society? Maybe not others, but someone who has dementia perhaps it is. It seems a better alternative to say a nursing home.


  1. One of Baudrillard's points about Disney is that it demonstrates how already-unreal all of the surrounding "real" cities are. I wonder in what ways this village-- in all of its hyperreality-- changes what we think about the "real" towns we all live in? Does it make them more real by being a foil? Or does it make them less real by exposing the performative quality of even the most "authentic" neighborhoods?

  2. I can't decide whether it makes "real" towns more or less real. However, what I keep coming back to is the situations within the village and within real towns. That is we know and understand (to an extent) how life works in a real town. You want something, you pay for it. If you don't pay for it, you have committed a crime and you suffer the consequences. Within the village, life is how they please. They can pay if they want or remember and if they don't it isn't necessarily and issue. It is almost as though basic laws don't apply within the village (of course, due to the circumstances). So it would seem to me then that the village would make our real towns more authentic. Even in Disney World, it shares the same rules and laws of our real towns. On the other hand, the village seems like a more idealistic place to live which can make the real towns less real.

  3. Also, it makes me think about the performativity of everyday commerce: we agree that these pieces of paper will have certain values ($20 bill, $10 bill-- both just the same pieces of paper in some ways), we follow scripts in terms of how to interact when we shop (first get cart, choose food, line up, pay, say thank you). What distinguishes those performances from the "fake" places in this village, where people also follow scripts, interact, exchange goods, etc. Really think this village would be a good project topic, especially since the press on it is just heating up, so it's timely.... Cool stuff!


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