A major national home care franchisor has been tapped to staff the first U.S. version of a “dementia village.” Pioneered in the Netherlands, the concept involves the re-creation of a community from the 1950s.
Senior Helpers, an in-home care franchise provider with 311 locations, has partnered with George G. Glenner Alzheimer’s Family Centers, Inc., to bring a unique experience to local seniors in the Chula Vista, California, area. Senior Helpers will be providing caregivers to an adult day care center called Town Square.
The environment is a simulated town designed for reminiscent therapy specifically for older adults who lived in the 1950s. The town features everything from a 1959 Ford car that participants can use to a working diner and black-and-white movie theater.
The town will support up to 75 participants per day, for the cost of $95 for a whole day of care or $65 for a half day.
Design in mind
The Town Square concept was created by Dr. George Glenner, who was a physician and Alzheimer’s researcher at the UCSD School of Medicine and conducted research on the beta-amyloid protein that is considered to be the hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease. The programming of Town Square involves 14 individual vignettes that offer interactive activities for seniors to do, such as going to a functioning library in the care center.
The entire town is designed in mid-century style to evoke the same feelings for seniors that they had when they were young adults.
“I equate it to the movie Titanic, when [elderly Rose] opens the door and goes back in time to the real Titanic,” Peter Ross, CEO of Senior Helpers, told Home Health Care News, of walking into Town Square. “When you go in the doors of Town Square, the reminiscent therapy is immediate. It’s a working town basically.”
Senior Helpers became involved in the project only recently, and is providing caregivers for the center, including training. Town Square is opening its first location Chula Vista, but will soon expand. Glenner has previously stated the concept could spread to up to 100 locations.
With the addition of Senior Helpers, Town Square will look to expand via a franchise model.
“When I first saw it, I was not as excited about anything else as a business opportunity since Senior Helpers [began],” Ross said. “It’s such a natural fit for Senior Helpers. The core values match up. This brings a really revolutionary way of providing care in the communities around the country with great caregivers staffed from Senior Helpers.”
From home to the square
The partnership marks a significant transition for Senior Helpers and Ross, who also recently joined the Healthcare Leadership Council (HLC) as the only member representing the in-home care community. HLC is a coalition of executives from all health care disciplines that develops policies, plans and programs for a better health care system.
By providing care at the adult day care center, Senior Helpers is still serving the community and its mission. The new business also provides a new client base for Senior Helpers with a more affordable care option.
“We do home care for lots of families, but not all can afford it,” Ross said. “There is a market that’s really underserved because the people can’t afford [care]. We can provide another option in the community, [and] now we have the opportunity to do that.”
Senior Helpers will staff 15 caregivers per day—for a ratio of five participants per caregiver in each vignette. The company will ramp up its recruiting for these specific positions at a time when the in-home care industry is facing some workforce pressures.
Fortunately, with a building timeline of roughly nine months, Senior Helpers will have time to secure care staff before another location opens, Ross told HHCN. Staffing for the day care centers may actually prove to be easier than home care.
“We’re trying to be very creative and out of the box in how we get people,” Ross said. “it is going to be an issue. Part of the challenge of our current mission is we get asked to staff places on a 24-hour notice—caring at a moment’s notice. With Glenner, we have nine months to prepare.”
For the first location, a center associated with Glenner was closing and staff were shifted to the new Town Square, making the process easy, according to Ross.
The first center is slated to open in April.
“This is an opportunity to give families that peace of mind that there is a safe, secure environment, and loved ones can’t wait to get there,” Ross said. “It’s an adult Disneyland concept.”
Written by Amy Baxter