Sunday, September 30, 2018
Some time ago we wrote about a new " town square" opening in San Diego that would allow visitors with dementia to experience the 1950s again. The idea is now spreading, City Lab published a story a few weeks ago about this trend. Why a ‘Memory Town’ Is Coming to Your Local Strip Mallexplains:
[The builder] has partnered with the home health-care giant Senior Helpers, which employs some 25,000 caregivers around the U.S., to build Town Squares around the country. Version 2.0 is under construction near Baltimore, in a former Rite Aid in White Marsh, Maryland. Seniors Helpers will own and run that facility, expected to open in early 2019. But franchise sales are under way, and Peter Ross, the company’s CEO, is bullish.
We know the number of elders in the U.S. is continuing to increase and with the decliner in mall space, the article notes, can become perfect locations for these expanded types of adult day care facilities. I was intrigued by the information in the article about our memories.
Our strongest, most enduring memories tend to be the those formed in adolescence and early adulthood, from roughly the ages of 10 to 30. Reminiscence therapy targets this age range, and for those Silent Generation members now in their 70s and 80s, that means the 1950s. (A person who is 80 in 2018 would have been 12 in 1950.) So the design of Town Square is intended to evoke the years between 1953 and 1961. It’s decked out with touches like a rotary phones, a 1959 Ford Thunderbird, a classic jukebox, portraits of period Hollywood stars, and vintage books and magazines. As the years go by, these will be replaced by more recent, period-appropriate prompts.
Those visiting the San Diego "town hall" for the most part "have early-to-moderate-stage Alzheimer’s disease, and they’re assessed in advance to determine whether they’re likely to benefit from the experience." As I mentioned earlier, this project is a type of adult day care, but it's more like an adult day care +. "The service that Glenner provides at Town Square—and that its franchisees will offer—is a form of adult day care, but in an unusually elaborate, cheerful, and spacious setting. Part of the sales pitch is that family members of people with dementia can feel good about leaving their loved ones for the day to give themselves a needed respite. (Not surprisingly, the extra reassurance comes at a premium; Town Square costs $95 a day, while the average rate for adult day-care centers is $61.)"
The article discusses another trend, that of the lure of nostalgia, even describing "nostalgiaville" as "places ....[that] remind [folks] of their youth." "The onward march of private or semi-public “nostalgiavilles” (retiree-only communities such as the Villages, Florida, are similarly engineered to evoke vanished small-town life) raises the question: Do people respond to these places ... because [of that reminder], or does their form matter, too? After all, millions of Boomers grew up in postwar sprawl, but Town Square isn’t designed to mimic that."
When you can, spend some time reflecting on the author's closing thoughts:
It’s a sad commentary on our real, full-scale communities that they are so anti-urban by comparison, and so unsafe for the old and frail. Most of the elderly participants strolling these franchised memory lanes will have to be driven to the suburban shopping centers that host them. The recipe for age-friendly cities is not that difficult: walkability, accessibility, plenty of outdoor space, good transit, opportunities for social connection. We shouldn’t have to dodge traffic on an eight-lane road just to get to a simulacrum of an inclusive urban place. The problem is not too much Disneyland thinking—it’s not enough.
My thanks to my colleague Mark Bauer for sending me the link to this article.