This German nursing home recreates the past in a new form of dementia therapy

Every day, Gertraude Bauer and Gerda Noack go shopping in communist East Germany for bread and other household goods.

This nursing home is recreating the era of communist East Germany to help patients

The two 93-year-old women spent much of their lives in the former German Democratic Republic. Now decades later, the past has reappeared, only for them.

The places they used to roam as young women, and the old songs they listened to play in the background. Until a few hours later, a nurse appears and then its time for the two Alzheimer’s patients’ to take their daily nap.

Bauer and Noack live in a nursing home and have suffered for years from Alzheimer’s, a degenerative disease that robs patients of their capacity to remember. For just a few minutes every day they give the feeling that they have regained control over their memories. To them, life in the former communist East Germany, a country that merged with West Germany after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, is present and vivid than what they are living through now.

Trigeering past memories led to improved functioning in many patients

The Alexa nursing home where they live is trying to trigger such memories by re-creating settings from the communist era as a form of therapy. They are recreating an entire historical era for the residents here.

Part of the therapy includes buying items commonly used in communist Germany during the 1960s, like radios, passports, hair dryers, even ice cream advertisements. These are displayed in a dedicated memory room that also have a small supermarket, a living room and comfortable chairs.

The therapists noticed changes in the patients when they did so. They started to drink more water and eat more, and could suddenly go to the toilet again by themselves. They showed abilities they did not show at all before this.

For the experiment to succeed, younger nurses also had to learn more about the past so they could appear as if they were living in an era they had never seen.

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