January 4, 2017
Can you imagine a place where people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and dementia could be taken back in time and comforted by the sights, sounds, and experiences of their younger years, all within the safety of a medically staffed location? In San Diego, Scott Tarde, CEO of George G. Glenner Alzheimer’s Family Centers, has partnered with the San Diego Opera to build Town Square, which is a functioning miniature city designed specifically for dementia patients, built inside an industrial building in Chula Vista, CA. Among other nostalgic scenery, Town Square will include a scaled version of a San Diego-themed city hall designed to look and feel like the city between 1953 and 1961. Tarde says he believes their project (and miniature city) will be the first of the kind in the United States.
One of the goals of the city is to provide reminiscence therapy. Reminiscence therapy, according to Tarde, is done to help “reduce agitation, improve mood, and improve sleep quality.” And he says those benefits will help provide a better experience for participants and mitigate stress for their family caregivers, who he says “are the silent victims in this whole thing.”
By recreating the look and feel of 1950’s San Diego, the Town Square staff will offer guided interactions that they hope will engage the participants’ long-term memories and generate a healthy, positive experience.
This groundbreaking center is scheduled to open in early 2018. Inside, participants will be able to view a movie in a working movie theater, have a hot meal in a Seaport Village-style restaurant, visit a hospital with a real nurse and a nursery equipped with life-like infant dolls to cuddle, work on a real 1959 Ford Thunderbird, and sit within a park setting modeled after Balboa Park to listen to a concert.
Each day, groups of five will be guided through Town Square’s 11,000 square foot building. Inside, there will be 25 3D storefronts with functional interiors that will allow participants to experience life as they might have in their 20s and 30s.
In addition to seeing a movie, working on a car, or cuddling baby dolls, they will be able to read books in the library, visit a salon to have their nails painted, see museum exhibits, spend time with shelter puppies in a “pet store,” play billiards in a sports bar, and get in a workout at the gym.
The breadth and depth of the experiences and individuals with dementia can create at Town Square are like nothing that exists in the world today. Tarde hopes this type of project will expand into every city in the country, helping even more people handle the difficulties that come with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. He believes the project will be transformative and offer a new kind of care for those suffering from dementia – and peace of mind for their family and caretakers.
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