How Sweden's Queen Helps to Create Homes for People with Dementia

Keeping elderly people at home with their loved ones is the greatest gift.

Sep 7, 2019

Everyone deserves to have a roof over their heads to keep out the elements and make them feel safe and secure. For elderly people with dementia, living in their own home, is of utmost importance.

That's why SilviaBo, named after 73-year-old Queen Silvia was designed to help elderly Swedes. The Silviabo is a joint project by Skanska and IKEA in a partnership with the Queen and the Silviahemmet Foundation she founded in 1996 to raise the level of dementia care.

The homes are part of the BoKlok, an affordable and sustainable housing. For three decades, more than 11,000 BoKlok modular houses have been built in Sweden, Finland, and Norway by using standard parts made offsite according to CNN.

All of the apartment's designs including kitchen cabinets, appliances, and bathroom fixtures are uniform and that helps keep the costs down. The lower cost housing is even subsidized so lower income people can pay what they can afford.

But the planning and design of this newest BoKlok project allowed the customer to be involved with the entire design including the color of the toilet seats and shower configurations according to a Skanska press release. That customer was H.M. Queen Silvia."She is truly engaged. This is her baby," said Jonas Spangenberg, BoKlok's CEO.

That's because the Queen understood that many people with dementia are forced to leave their homes and go into nursing facilities. She understood that keeping families intact and in their own homes was a better way to go.

Creating reasonably homes that are tweaked with special features to aide people with memory issues was giving people the opportunity to stay in their own homes.

In 2015, the Silviahemmet Foundation approached BoKlok about designing a home that would become SilviaBo. With funds provided by IKEA founder Ingvar Kamprad (who passed away in 2018), a steering group was formed that met monthly to incorporate the changes that would be necessary for people with dementia.

These 50 changes included using bright red shower rails, toilet seats, and doors that could easily be seen. To avoid confusion, there are no mirrors or dark colored floors, and all the kitchen appliances have old-fashioned knobs.

In March 2017, the first SilviaBo homes were beginning to be assembled – a process that is very fast with modular homes – and Queen Silvia was there to watch the first home being put together on the site."You can strongly feel that this is important to her personally," Spangenberg said.

The first two homes with a total of eight 55 square meter two-room homes were officially opened by King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia. Before the official ceremony, the Queen spoke about why this was so important to her.

She said that her mother suffered from Alzheimer's, a type of dementia, and how she tried to help her mother.
"I thought a lot about my mother," the Queen said. "Those thoughts were there all the time. How hard was it? What can one do to make it easier for those with dementia?" SilviaBo is her answer to that question.

To help make the housing switch easier, Silviabo plans to make a similar version available to people who are age 65 and up and retired. There will be options to add the special accessories later.

The Swedish elderly population is growing, by 2040, almost one in four Swedes will be 65 years or older according to CNN. Other counties are also dealing with the effects of an aging population as the WWII baby boom reaches elderly status.

In countries like Sweden and the Netherlands, care for the elderly is government funded so solutions that are both creative and affordable are being found.

"To take care of elderly people, that cost is exploding," Spangenberg told CNN. "It's much cheaper for society and the public to give them service back home."

These creative solutions are the key for giving people with dementia a good quality of life, in their own homes with their own loving partners caring for them. There is no better gift.

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BONNIE RIVA RAS, EDITOR & WRITER
Bonnie Riva Ras has dedicated her life to promoting social justice. She loves to write about empowering women, helping children, educational innovations, and advocating for the environment & sustainability.

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