In a utopian world, every senior citizen would leave the world after a life that was both meaningful and productive. This may seem like a pipe dream, but this is the case in the Netherlands where an untraditional elderly care model called ‘care farms’ empower elders with dementia to live and work on a farm.
Elders in care farms have the agency to make decisions for themselves by choosing what they want to do on the farm. Tasks are plentiful so they never run out of things to do. In contrast with traditional care homes, seniors in such settings are only given a fixed set of activities that they can choose to participate in.
The care farm model is backed by science and data. Studies have shown that people with dementia who live on care farms are more physically active than those in traditional elderly homes. Care farms also improve social involvement, which helps counteract dementia, as it is linked to social isolation.
There are challenges to this untraditional setting. Arjan Monteny, who runs a care farm in Rotterdam, said that care farms are not suitable for people with advanced dementia. Working on the farm also exposes seniors to injuries, but in their case, Monteny said that none of the elders in their care have suffered from any major injury. Funding and compliance with health regulations are additional considerations in running a care farm.
Despite the challenges, care farms are becoming more common in the Netherlands. There are around 1,350 care farms in the country, with 400 of them offering care for people with dementia. Care farms are becoming more relevant each passing year as people start to acknowledge the role of the elderly and people with disabilities in society. It also comes at a time when current data projections see rates of dementia doubling by 2050.