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European City Goes Above And Beyond To Be Most Dementia-Friendly City In The World

Posted at 7:50 PM, May 25, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-25 19:50:56-04

(NBC NEWS) – Right now, 6 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s a number that’s expected to more than double in the next 30 years.

Unlike other diseases, there isn’t a single new promising treatment on the horizon.

Instead of waiting for that magic pill, one European city found a unique way to “treat” patients and it’s helping them live *not just* longer lives, but *better lives*.

Nestled near the coast of Belgium, lies the city of Bruges; known for its canals, cobblestone streets and chocolate.

What most people don’t know – Bruges is also the most dementia-friendly city in the world.

“The idea is to treat dementia patients like any other residents of the city… so they can stay independent longer, slowing down the progress of the disease,” said Bart Deltour.

Deltour works for FOTON — an organization that ensures dementia patients aren’t isolated at home.

“When people with dementia keep moving, they can have social contact. They are staying healthy much longer,” said Deltour.

FOTON provides everything from counseling for caregivers to music classes, and even a special cafe, where families can spend time together.

There’s also this red handkerchief sticker found on windows of more than 100 shops, signaling to patients that they are dementia friendly.

“I help them with the money and ask them three times or four times the same question. But I’m happy to do that,” said shopkeeper Jon Declark.

In total, the organization has trained more than 1,000 residents — including police officers and shopkeepers — on how to treat people with dementia.

Mariette Debusere is proof of the program’s success.

She was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s over a decade ago. But she still lives independently, only possible because of volunteers who visit her home each day.

A successful dementia “treatment” that has nothing to do with medicine, and everything to do with how we treat each other.