Monday, August 3, 2015


Thanks to an unexpected birthday gift of a return air ticket to Amsterdam, I had the opportunity to visit Hogewey Village. It has been on my wish list since I first read about the place two years ago, and watched CNN's Dr Sanjay Gupta's insightful documentary 'Dementia Village'. Now I can happily strike Hogewey off my wish list.

The prime mover behind this innovative concept is co-founder and former nurse Yvonne van Amerongen. I had emailed her earlier requesting permission to visit the facility with Marianne Abbink Lankhorst, my Dutch friend. She wrote back to say we were both welcomed to visit anytime. Excellent! Visit

So there we were at Hogewey on a warm Thursday afternoon of 29 July 2015. Visitors enter and exit via the sliding door which was controlled by the receptionist. The door remained closed to the residents. They were not allowed out of the facility on their own.

We were given a map showing the layout of the place, and several information sheets about Hogewey. We had the freedom to move around and explore but were reminded to respect the privacy of the residents. In other words, no peering into their living quarters or taking their photos without their permission. But we were welcome to use the information and images provided on the Vivium website.

One of the many courtyards surrounded by residents' homes on the ground floor and upper floor.
As we had no access to the homes, this composite image is taken from internet sources. It gives you an idea of the different lifestyle settings. Residents are housed in groups according to the lifestyle they are familiar with. 

Hogewey is the world's first village built specifically for people in the advanced stage of dementia. The concept for it is based on the belief that dementia patients can still enjoy a relatively normal life if they live together with like-minded people in an environment that is familiar to them.

Residents share a common dining room and living room (Images: Daily Mail)

There are currently 152 residents at Hogewey, with six to seven housed in each of the 23 homes. grouped into seven distinct lifestyle settings: urban, homely, cultural, traditional, Gooi (well-to-do), Indonesian and Christian. Residents have their own bedrooms but share a common living room, dining room and kitchen. Each home has one or two staff to look after the residents and do the cooking.

Another view of the homes. 

The staff at Hogewey outnumber the residents 4:1. You will see them as housekeepers, shop assistants and minders, but you won't find them in staff uniform. Volunteers are identified by a nondescript badge they wear. Hogewey takes great pains to avoid any resemblance to a hospital or a nursing home. Instead, it strives to make Hogewey as close as possible to a small gated neighbourhood complete with its own supermarket, cafe, restaurant, beauty salon and theatre. There is a large central square and smaller ones or courtyards with benches and chairs where residents can sit and soak in the sunshine, weather permitting.

(When we were there, there was intermittent rain. That explains why you don't see any residents outdoors in the photos.)

Join me as I take you on an 'external' tour of Hogewey.

The main boulevard, with shops flanking both sides.
The cafe is the first outlet you see on your left as you walk along the boulevard.
This is probably where the residents go to work their muscles and limbs.
There's even a repair shop in case anything needs fixing.
Inside the beauty salon. We didn't get to enter so this image is taken from the Daily Mail.
This is The Passage - a spacious hall where the residents gather to enjoy group activities. There is always music playing in the background as the elderly love music from the old days. Expect to see some of them dancing too. We did.
That's Marianne at the door of the Rembrandt Room. This is where the residents enjoy art and craft activities.
The supermarket at Hogewey is well-stocked. Every item carries a price tag. The cashier issues a receipt for purchases but no money is paid. 
The restaurant is open to visitors. That's Yvonne (in blue). Hogewey has a constant stream of visitors from overseas eager to learn more about the dementia village concept. 

There are no locks anywhere. Doors and elevators open and close as you step on the weight-sensitive floor panel. Residents have the freedom to move around and participate in the daily programme of activities if they wish to. The objective is to make life in Hogewey as normal as possible, and as close to what they are accustomed to.

No need to press any button or turn any door knob. Doors open when you step on the floor panel in front of it.

According to Yvonne van Amerongen in the CNN interview, the concept works. Residents do not need as much medication, they seem happier and are living longer. The Hogewey model has been replicated in Canada, Switzerland and the UK, and that's evidence of its success, aside from the awards it has won since 2010. Apparently those on the waiting list have to wait at least a year before there is a vacancy. That only happens when a resident has passed on. Hogewey is where those with severe dementia come to live their remaining years in peace and with dignity.

Programme of activities in Dutch, of course.

The burning question readers might want to ask is: How much are the fees? Around 3800 euros, that's about RM16,000 a month. It's heavily subsidized by the government, otherwise it would cost upwards from 8000 euros per resident a month. Looks like we won't see a Hogewey-style village in Malaysia anytime soon, if ever!

Sunday, July 26, 2015


For many of us retirees, tightening our belts has become part and parcel of daily living. We think twice before purchasing non-essential items. Even when shopping for necessities, we have taken to comparing prices first before making a decision. Getting value for money is our shopping credo now.

It's not that we can't afford to spend, but with the implementation of GST, the weakening ringgit, and the escalating rise in the cost of living, we have to keep a careful eye on our spending. Unless we have shares that pay decent dividends, or own a small business that generates some income, we are depleting our savings as we spend. How long will our retirement funds last? Will our nest egg be sufficient to see us through the next 20 years? All it takes is just one major health crisis or a financial setback to wipe out a big chunk of our savings.

Falling back on our children for financial support is no longer an option. They have their own family and financial commitments to take care of. Consider ourselves fortunate if they don't seek support from us!

Award-winning occupational therapist Lim Hwee Er is founder of Goshen Consultancy Services

So this leaves us with no choice but to work for as long as we are able, or invest wisely to generate some extra income for rainy days and old age.

I'll leave the financial experts to advise on investments. With age working against us in the employment market, the most feasible option is probably to start a small home-based business. Below are some suggestions that require minimal start-up capital, and virtually no overheads to worry about if you operate from your home. What you must have are determination, resilience and commitment to deliver your best.

If you live in a residential neighbourhood e.g. Taman Megah, or in a condo complex e.g. Mont Kiara, you already have a pool of potential customers for the following services:

Home Tutoring and Classes
  • Home tuition - especially recommended for retired teachers. So convenient for parents looking for an experienced home tutor to coach their children in English/Bahasa, Maths and Music. There is also demand to teach Conversational English to expat wives and other adults who have a desire to improve their English.
  • Cooking classes - easy enough to conduct cooking or baking classes in your home. Or rent a multi-purpose function room in your condo block to conduct your classes.
  • Computer classes - you will be surprised how many seniors are eager to learn how to use the internet and social media. You can conduct classes for interested seniors. They bring their own laptops or tablets. 
Consider teaching seniors how to use social media either on a personal tutor basis or in a class.

Personalized services
Home Physiotherapy (Image:
  • Physiotherapy, massage, pedicure, manicure, facials, etc. Make use of your experience in these fields. If you don't have the experience but have an interest to learn, go get the training required.
  • One of my friends conducts swim classes for seniors in their condo pool. They can choose to have one-to-one instruction, or in a group of three. 
  • Confinement ladies are earning very good money, often commanding RM8000 and above for their services for just one month of post-delivery cooking and caring for the newborn baby. In Singapore, the going rate can be as high as SGD3000!
Confinement ladies can make good money especially in Singapore (Image from The Ant Daily)

Small home-based businesses

Just as there ia a huge demand for services targeting parents with little children e.g. home child-minding, daycare centres, tuition centres, there is an even greater and more urgent demand to provide similar services for the elderly.

Start small within your condo or neighbourhood community. If you satisfy your customers, they will promote your services by word of mouth. Maintain quality control and prompt service, and you can be assured of a viable business that will contribute towards your nest egg. I know of friends who are doing splendidly operating from their home kitchen, taking orders for cakes, jams and roasted nuts.

With global ageing comes a wide and varied range of services that cater to the needs of the elderly. Opportunities are excellent for those interested in targeting this niche market:
  • Daycare centres for the elderly, There is a HUGE demand for such a service. Statistics are not available, but the number of elderly parents left alone at home is on the rise. Adult children with elderly parents would welcome such centres. Start small by taking in not more than five elderly who required minimal assistance with feeding and mobility.
  • Meal delivery to the elderly. The elderly have special dietary needs. Meal delivery would appeal to them, especially to those who find it a hassle to cook.
  • Transport-on-call. Provides an essential service for the elderly living alone who need to see the doctor or do grocery shopping. The service comes with extras, like keeping the elderly company at the hospital, or helping with the groceries.
Meal delivery at your door-step for senior citizens (Image: Internet)

If you are seeking paper qualifications or skills training for any of the above, check out what courses are offered at baking schools, IT centres, Centres for Continuing Education at local universities. MCA Wanita as well as Women's Institute of Malaysia (WIM) regularly conduct courses to equip women with skills to enable them to earn an income.

There are also free online courses that you can sign up for. All it takes is just a Google search to find out what's available, where, and when.

A baking class in session at MCA Wanita's training course for confinement nannies (Image from MCA website)

As long as you have the drive and the determination to succeed, you are never too old for an encore career, or be your own boss. Not only does working keep you mentally, physically and socially active, it helps to supplement your retirement funds. The key is to find a vocation or a business that drives you. Then it is no longer work but a passion.