It’s Happening!

I am excited, grateful, and a little bit stressed.

We are starting a dementia simulation house at the University of Northern.

Every once in a while, you dream about something, and the reality is better than your dream.

For a while, I have mentioned my interest in doing dementia simulation to our Dean (who, by the way, is wonderful). We’ve talked about other spaces–conference rooms, offices that aren’t used, etc.

It was my dream that I would get a dorm room. I’d set it up like a studio apartment. If I was lucky, I could get the room next door to do debriefing after the simulation.

And..somehow…I got a house. A whole house.

It’s been a rental. It’s held some parties. It’s seen some stuff. (My mother-in-law and husband scrubbed the bathroom and kitchen floors today. I have spent a significant amount of the past few weeks shampooing carpet.)

And, now, this the dementia simulation house.

I brought one of our Gerontology alums, Megan Zimmerman, in on the project. She’s a leader for the dementia friendly movement in Iowa. Partnering with her was the best decision I could have made.

Our first task was to furnish the house. When I got the key, we had a couch, an ottoman, and an aqua-colored dresser some renter left in a corner of the basement. I put a call out for just about everything you generally have in a house. A bed. A kitchen table. A vacuum. Bookshelves. A coat rack. Lamps. Blankets. Bedding. A desk. Chairs.

I designated “drop-off hours” and waited at the house–wondering if anyone would actually respond to my email and bring stuff.

Yep. They did. My friends, my colleagues at the university, and my community came through. Big time. I was humbled by their kindness and generosity.

Several people donated the furniture of a parent who passed away and had dementia. Others brought the furniture of someone with dementia who had recently moved to a nursing home. It would be an understatement to say I was touched.

Our soft opening is Tuesday. We have some stuff to figure out (like parking), but we are excited.

We want to help people understand what dementia is. It’s not just memory loss. This isn’t about old people forgetting the names of their grandchildren. It’s much more.

We hope to give our participants a sense of how dementia impacts your interaction with your environment. We want them to realize that the dementia brain has to work harder to do seemingly simple tasks. We hope that they leave with a bit more understanding of what life with dementia might be like.

Despite everything in the world, I think people are good. I think people want to help others. Sometimes they just don’t know how. They don’t know what to say. They don’t know what to do. So they step away.

We want them to have the confidence to step toward people with dementia.

You know those moments where you look around and think...I am doing exactly what I am supposed to be doing right now….

That’s where I’m at.

8 thoughts on “It’s Happening!

  1. Very cool. 🙂 I would love to visit it. Could you post a link to its website for more info and directions? I will share it on my blog and will send it elsewhere as well. I have heard of traveling simulators, but I haven’t been able to find one locally. Thank you for all you do. 🙂


  2. Oh goodness… I am so very happy for you. This project will make a huge impact on so many people!! Thank you for your efforts, and thanks to all those who donated items for the house. Looking forward to learning more about the house and how you will use it to teach others about dementia.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. This sounds so amazing. I’m tempted to just hop in the car and drive up to visit this incredible achievement. I also wish I could donate a big, comfy purple chair that is in my garage. My mom finally passed away last Monday and I know she would love to help people understand this terrible disease. In fact, let me know if you need a purple chair. Have truck, will travel. 🙂

    Best of luck on the soft opening tomorrow, and thank you so much for all you are doing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am so, so sorry for your loss. Would love to have you visit–purple chair or not. We are doing an inspiration wall of people who had or have dementia to keep us focused on the purpose of this project. If you’d like to send an picture of your mom to me via email, I will add her pic. Email me at


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