Hospitals (along with airports) were traditionally considered to be ‘non-spaces”, where their inhabitants are transient without social interaction or a sense of history. They are supposed to be places that people come and leave as soon as possible. However, in the ever-ageing population we might start to needing to see these hospitals in a different light, as final destinations rather than a momentary passing.

Dementia has increased a design of a ‘placebo place-ness’. People with dementia are often left in a limbo where they are unable to connect the lapsed memory of the past with the present institutional living in modern healthcare.

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Benrath Senior Center in Düsseldorf, Germany has been dealing with the stressful issue of persuading their Alzheimer’s patients who become disoriented and run away by placing a placebo bus stop in front of the road. It’s probably needless to mention that even the most humane way of restraining a patient can still be rather traumatic. The phantom bus shelter becomes a place where the patient waits for the non-existent bus. The waiting time allows them to forget to run away, according to Radiolab: The Bus Stop.

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Hogewey has been dubbed the “The Trumen Show” for the sick and the elderly by taking on the village aesthetics to a level of theatrical improvisation. The residents are the participating audiences enjoying the crafted homes in a village with shops, restaurants,a mini market, a film theater and a hairdresser. To the outsider, it feels more like a theme park. Those coming from the Dutch upper class have lace table cloths, chandeliers and hidden kitchens where carers behave like servants while the ‘homemakers’ enjoy spotless surroundings with porcelain ornaments. Each of the houses are set into different themes according to patients past experiences according to Guardian: A Visit to The Dementia Village

dementia residents in shop

Photograph: Anita Edridge for the Guardian

The world of kitsch becomes useful as comforts for a confused memory. People are encouraged to feel like they are continuing with their lives. These care homes have even been moving from being hospitals for ‘treating illness’ to homes for ‘treating people’. However, the moral arguments about ‘fooling’ Alzheimer’s patients rests at our levels of comfort at we be double bluffing a dysfunctional memory.

Written by Lisa Ma

Lisa Ma socializes activism. Combining ethnographic research and speculative design, Lisa creates platforms of engagement from surprising insights and processes that deeply resonate with the global technological community. The emergence of clicktivism – to protest at the click of a mouse – is trivializing activism. Lisa argues that although activism doesn’t necessarily benefit from technology, we need to evolve how activism contributes to technological societies. To illustrate this, she designs dilemmas and creates social events that are perceived as activism but function as services.

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