Redefining Dementia in Denmark

In Denmark, people with dementia aren't confined to nursing homes, they go on biking trips. (CBC / Karin Wells)

In Denmark, people with dementia aren't confined to nursing homes, they go on biking trips. (CBC / Karin Wells)

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Denmark looks after its old people.

Lotte, the most famous nursing home in the country, has become an international shrine for anyone seeking another way ... a happier way ... to make a life for people with dementia.

Lotte is a big old brick house on the west side of Copenhagen, where 23 men and women live like a family. Seventy per cent of the family has dementia.

They take Caribbean vacations together. The 98-year-old man on the second floor has fallen in love with the 101-year-old woman. The cat sits curled up next to the dining room table.

Lotte's first leader, Thyra Frank, is the rock star of elder care in Denmark.

Denmark - like every other country in Europe - is in an economic squeeze. Yet Lotte is fully funded and fostered by the Danish government.

The underlying philosophy of elder care is well rooted.  Every man or woman, no matter how ill, or how old, has the right to choose how they want to live.

We all know the numbers - dementia of some sort is catching up with more and more of us. It is a frightening prospect.

No one wants to see mum or dad  - or to imagine themselves - strapped down to a bed in a locked dementia ward - chemically warehoused. But in North America, the choices are limited.

Which is why the world looks to Denmark -- where it is illegal to imprison people with dementia in locked wards; where nursing homes regularly take their people on holiday, and where people with dementia are asked what they want to do today.

Karin Wells's documentary is called It's Their Life

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