Dementia Care Reimagined

By on Sep 2, 2020 in Global, News

Two unlikely forces are improving dementia care in Sweden. A member of the royal family is collaborating with a ready-to-assemble home supply store. Together, they’ve reimagined senior housing development in a way that is affordable, sustainable and chic.

The collaboration couldn’t have come at a better time. By 2040, nearly one in four Swedes will be 65 years or older. While long life expectancy is a good problem to have, the government desperately seeks affordable ways to fund care for its aging population.

Queen Silvia has taken a personal interest in the nation’s senior care. After losing her mother to Alzheimer’s, she became more involved in dementia care initiatives. BoKlok, an affordable and sustainable housing partnership between Ikea and Skanska, captured her attention. The three powers began a multi-decade endeavor to develop an affordable approach to housing the nation’s elderly while keeping quality and sustainability at the forefront of their efforts.

SilviaBo: affordable, sustainable housing

Together, BoKlok and Queen Silvia created SilviaBo, senior housing developments that rose to the demands of affordability, quality and comfort. They are designed to allow seniors to age in place rather than nursing homes.

“To take care of elderly people, that cost is exploding,” BoKlok CEO Jonas Spangenberg told CNN Business. “It’s much cheaper for society and the public to give them service back home.”

To date, SilviaBo includes 11,000 prefab homes with communities in Sweden, Norway and Finland. Their success has relied on the Ikea model for mass production. To keep costs low, the homes are produced in high volumes in warehouses, succinctly packed and then shipped to the site. Ikea and Skanska also took responsibility for the supply chain from start to finish: land acquisition, production, assembly, marketing and leasing all take place under the BoKlok umbrella.

Conscious dementia care

With SilviaBo’s success under their belts, the venture is now turning to customized care. The SilviaBo designs are receiving dementia-specific customizations. These changes will allow seniors to age in place and reside with their partners while receiving the care and facilities that they need.

The new designs include dark-colored bathroom floors and universal lighting. There are no mirrors in the bathrooms, which may confuse vulnerable residents. Bright red shower railings, high visibility doors and zero-step transitions make navigating through the home simpler. In the kitchen, new appliances receive a retro makeover, using buttons and knobs rather than touchscreens.

Though dementia care is paramount, BoKlok designed the unit to be comfortable and welcoming to partners are well. Unlike nursing home formats, SilviaBo communities encourage couples to stay together longer.

Outside of the homes, residents can enjoy ample outdoor space including therapeutic gardens. Clubhouses facilitate community events, and even offer opportunities for residents to host events beyond the walls of their units.

To keep housing affordable, BoKlok will implement its Left to Live payment system, which operates on a sliding scale for applicants.

Sanksa reports that the queen has been “very involved in all aspects of creating the project, even down to such details as the color of toilet seats and the configuration of showers.”

Jonas Spangenberg, BoKlok’s CEO adds, “She is truly engaged. This is her baby.”

Establishing roots in frigid ground

Even with the queen’s blessing, the project encounters its fair share of hurdles. BoKlok has established Sweden as its flagship market, but it is currently navigating land and zoning requirements. Construction is projected to begin within a year.

The model community outside of Stockholm, which serves as a testing ground and marketing opportunity for the organization, has also run into a snag. The six-apartment community is complete, but it remains uninhabited: neighbors hamstrung BoKlok with a permit dispute. The organization remains hopeful that the conflict is nearing an amicable resolution.

Read about more innovations in senior housing and senior care technology.