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Memory Care Centre recreates past for dementia patients

An Ontario retirement home intentionally blurs the lines between past and present for residents with dementia — keeping them happy and comfortable with sights and sounds from the '40s and '50s.

Ontario retirement home intentionally blurs lines between today and yesterday

A Georgian Bay, Ontario retirement home has carefully recreated the past for dementia patients who find the environment comforting. 6:56

At the Memory Care Centre, which specializes in caring for seniors with dementia, the past can be found around every corner.

There's an office from the 1950s, a barbershop set in a time when haircuts cost 65 cents, and a 1947 Dodge parked in the hallway. An Elvis impersonator performs, charming the female residents. 

For many living with dementia, remembering recent events can be a challenge, whereas the memories of things they experienced decades ago often remain vivid.

The goal at the Memory Care Centre is to transport residents back to a time where they feel most comfortable and happy. The lines between what is real and what isn't are deliberately blurred.

The Memory Care Centre is located at Georgian Bay Retirement Home in Penetanguishene, Ont. Many of the centre's 34 residents are over 80 and all of them have dementia. There is no other place like it in Canada. 

"We are embracing their life, taking memories that are precious to them, and elaborating on them," says Wellness Manager Judy Malloy. "I think that we're here to see them through the happier times, because they're the times that they're remembering."

The people who work at the centre say constructing a reality that doesn't exist can bring enormous comfort to the residents and ease the agitation and aggression that can come with memory loss. 

Click the video player to watch The National's documentary on the Memory Care Centre, or watch it here.

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