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In California, a fake 1950s town helps Alzheimer’s patients reminisce

What they offer visitors is truly unique: a chance to recall cherished memories.

In San Diego, California, a facility called Glenner Town Square has opened to help some 84,000 residents suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.

Named after Alzheimer’s researcher Dr George Glenner, the place resembles a small town from the 1950s, complete with 14 storefront replicas like a diner, a cinema, a library, a pet store, a garage, and even a city hall.

There are also quaint little details such as vintage newspapers and comic books, portraits of period Hollywood celebrities, an old jukebox, rotary phones, and a 1959 Ford Thunderbird.

Glenner Town Square

The facility’s aim is to get participants to engage in what is called reminiscence therapy, a kind of treatment wherein those with dementia are encouraged to talk about their memories with the help of old photos, music, and other prompts from the past.

Think of Glenner Town Square as a Disneyland for seniors. But instead of making new memories there, they try to recall old ones.

“The music, the artwork, the signs, the newspapers, the magazines all take people back to a time when their memories are strongest so they’ll remember when they were in the 20s and 30s,” said Lisa Tyburski, Glenner Alzheimer’s Family Center Chief Marketing Officer.

Glenner Town Square

As part of reminiscence therapy, visitors are also shown around in small groups, visiting five or six locations in a day and doing activities based on their individual conditions.

“Every storefront lends itself to reminiscing,” said Scott Tarde, CEO of the Glenner Centers. “In the library, they’ll do everything from puzzles to having storytellers come in. In the pet store, animal therapy.”

Glenner Town Square

According to studies, reminiscence therapy has been linked to positive effects on mood, cognition, and communication level. There’s also evidence that it does wonders for those without dementia.

The company plans to open as many as 200 locations all over the US within the next few years to make this type of therapy more accessible to all – not to mention to provide a leisure venue for seniors that is not a Bingo hall.

“We want them to have a sense of purpose when they come here,” Tarde added. “A lot of those interactions are cut off to them in their normal lives.”

Glenner Town Square

Via City Lab