Time-Travel Therapy

Can a faux 1950s downtown sharpen the minds of dementia patients?

The Atlantic, January/February 2017

An estimated 5.4 million people in the United States suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, a number that is expected to rise as the Baby Boomers age. Still more suffer from other forms of dementia. To keep such patients’ minds engaged and give their caregivers at home a break, doctors often refer them to day centers, where they can exercise, take part in activities, and receive counseling or medication.

Recently, the George G. Glenner Alzheimer’s Family Care Centers, a San Diego nonprofit that operates three such facilities, has begun to create a very different sort of daytime space for its patients: a faux town of 24 buildings, arranged around a central green and designed to evoke the era when most of today’s dementia patients were young adults. The hope is that visual reminders of their youth will spark memories and conversation.

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Photography courtesy of San Diego Opera