For years, the senior living industry has looked to the progressive Hogeweyk community in The Netherlands as a memory care pioneer.
Now, a senior living operator has plans to replicate the concept stateside and potentially raise the bar on U.S.-based memory care services in the process.
The operator is United Methodist Communities, which is based in New Jersey and has nine communities throughout the state.
As planned, the community in New Jersey — called Avandell — will include 15 freestanding dwellings, each with room for seven residents. Like at the Hogeweyk community in Weesp, Netherlands, residents will be grouped by interests or hobbies, such as cooking or music.
Anchoring the project is a town center with a grocery store, bistro, multipurpose spaces, neurocognitive clinic and resource hub.
The town center also is planned to include a community pavilion, has space for a salon and spa and club rooms; and will be surrounded by green space, a barn with goats and chickens, gardens, sensory paths and other ways for residents to connect with the outdoors.
The community’s common spaces will be staffed by Avandell employees, who carry the overall goal of giving residents a routine and sense of normality in their lives.
The idea to import the Hogeweyk model came about after a 2017 visit to The Netherlands in which UMC staff met with operator Hogewey to learn more about how the community works.
Larry Carlson, who worked as the CEO of United Methodist Communities until he retired this month, told Senior Housing News that the project has the potential to be “the most important and potentially impactful paradigm shift in memory care in the last 30 years.”
“I think that Avandell has the potential to change the paradigm for how we take care of people with dementia diagnoses in the U.S., and for the next generation of people who are going to have that diagnosis,” Carlson told Senior Housing News in October.
The community is still in its planning phases, but could start coming together in earnest in a matter of months, pending approval from local officials.
Shifting the memory care paradigm
Perhaps the biggest way the community aims to bring about a paradigm shift in memory care is through the resident experience.
Over the years, locked doors and restrictions on activities have become commonplace in memory care communities. Though this has stemmed from a desire to keep residents safe, it has led to memory care communities that can feel institutional and limit residents’ autonomy and sense of purpose.
Avandell flips that notion on its head with a philosophy of saying yes to as many requests as possible. For example, residents will be able to more or less roam where they please. If they want to wake at 5 a.m., drink coffee and read the paper, they can do that. If they want to stay up until 2 a.m. and sleep in the next day, they can do that, too.
All the while, they will go about their day throughout the village, much as they would if they were living on their own.
“Residents should not have to adapt to the rhythm of the institution, but rather the rhythm of the institution should adapt to their particular rhythm of life,” Carlson said.
While the community will carry staffing ratios typical of a person-centered memory care model, it will also include a universal worker concept so that associates can work different jobs in the community and better get to know residents and their colleagues.
“There’s going to be a homemaker in the house, and they’re going to help with the meals. There’s going to be a nurse supervising,” Carlson said. “It’s the same number of people, but in different roles.”
One key difference is that Hogeweyk residents can access public health care, while U.S. residents must pay for their own. And although the idea is for Avandell to be a private-pay community, Carlson said there will be built-in support for residents living on a fixed income.
Technology and innovation are other central pieces of the plans for Avandell. The community will have a neurocognitive clinic where residents and their families can receive expert guidance on managing Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia.
The clinic also will include what Carlson describes as a cross between an “Apple Genius Bar for senior living, dementia care tech” and a “mini version” of the Thrive Center in Louisville, Kentucky, where he serves on the board of directors.
“In the lobby is actually going to be a kitchen and a living room where we can showcase all the latest tech that people could use, especially at home, when they’re dealing with dementia care,” he said. “Tech providers could use our lobby as sort of a showroom for their tech.
In addition to serving memory care residents in a new and significant way, Carlson also sees Avandell as a future destination for memory care advances in the same way that Hogeweyk is now.
In fact, he sees the Avandell concept as significant as the groundbreaking Woodside Place memory care community in the Pittsburgh suburb of Oakmont, Pennsylvania. That community opened in 1991 and was among the first residential personal care communities of its kind in the U.S.
Down the line, he sees other memory care operators touring the community and seeking paid consulting services in the same way that UMC’s management did at Hogeweyk in 2017.
“We’re trying to create something that’s unique, that can be easily replicated — and we want to show people how to do it,” Carlson said.