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This is part of a multi-part reflection I've been doing following the death of my friend, Mark Baumer . There's nothing graphic i...

A Dutch Alzheimer's Village: A Window on Us

I can't help but feel that this is an extension of Dutch society at large.


Rachel's grandmother is in the end stages of Alzheimer's Disease. Her grandfather, who is ninety but still sharp and physically able to walk around and do things, has really been confined due to the snow, and has not been able to visit her in hospice as easily from the next building over.

This village is a kind of fake place, but even in the general surroundings of cycle-oriented countries, older people are respected in a way that we only feign at. We might provide one long, infrequent bus out to do to-the-door Walmart service, but we don't have the kind of walkable streets that make it possible for elderly people to get out and do things independently (older folks are actually one of the highest-risk groups for injury and death as pedestrians).

In Portland, where the city has begun to make itself more Dutch, people in their eighties or nineties can get trikes from the city to aid mobility, and because everything isn't a speedway of death, they can actually be able to safely get around. One woman said that she really can't walk too well anymore because she worries about falling, but that the trikes give her a sense that she can go visit a friend or run errands. How great is that? That's what I want when I get old.

It's funny, I find myself thinking, "Gee, if one of the patients escaped from this 'fake' village, they might get hit by a car!" Except that in the Netherlands, they're probably at pretty low risk for that even if they're in a "real" village.

The Netherlands has been criticized by Paul Krugman for being stingy with deficit spending, a policy the Keynesian says is economically wrong-headed. Though I wouldn't say deficit spending is always a bad idea, I think that the generous provisions that Northern European countries make for all stages of life are able to be done in a fiscally balanced way because they don't waste so much money on the stroads that we build. Keynesianism is really just the flip-side of trickle-down. It's not really about making people more equal, it's about pumping fake money into the economy to make it expand. We should be addressing the growing wealth and income gap and providing for vulnerable people in our society the way these social democracies do, but without wasting so much funding on wasteful transportation policies built around cars.

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This came out on the 25th, and Evelyn Weisholtz, Rachel's grandmother, passed on the 28th. Even though "Huvvy" forgot a lot of things and was confused often due to the progression of her dementia, one of the things that was most striking about her until the very end was the importance of family for her, even new members of the family. I was really amazed at how even on the phone she would ask "How's James?" and would always greet me when I went with Rachel's family to visit her. She'll be missed.


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