I’ve found a great spot for most of the Republican presidential candidates — active and vanquished — to retire to after Barack Obama wins his second term in November. Dubbed “Dementiaville” in press accounts, it’s a mock-1950s “village” of 23 residences that the Swiss are building in Wiedlisbach to house 150 cognitively impaired old folks.
Dementiaville follows a similar nursing home that was established in the Amsterdam suburbs in 2009, where the residents (or their guardians) “pay €5,000 a month to live in a world of carefully staged illusion,” as the U.K. Independent reports today. The visual and architectural cues at Dementiaville will all be from the comforting 1950s, when the residents still had full possession of their minds. The operation’s caretakers “will dress as gardeners, hairdressers and shop assistants,” the paper continues, to extend the illusion. Dementiaville founder Markus Vögtlin claims that the planned environment at the Amsterdam village makes its patients “feel comfortable. I call it travelling back in time.”
Although the geriatric-care profession is split on the value of stockpiling dementia patients in the equivalent of the old Ozzie and Harriet back lot, it’s easy to discern who is the target of Dementiaville’s marketing: The mentally complete offspring and the spouses of the patients, who naturally feel guilty for delegating care to an institution.
When campaigning, Republican presidential candidates tend to build their own little Dementiavilles, cherry-picking what they consider the best of the 1950s as they call for the return of cheap energy, U.S. industrial and military hegemony, a more business-friendly economy, and respect for authority. The Republican campaign ad imagery and its language of “renewal,” popular since the Age of Reagan, concentrates on tree-lined streets and carefree kids riding their bikes, church socials, pickup baseball games, sunny days, and smiling snowmen. It’s no coincidence that Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney spent some of their teen years in this imagined utopia.
This idealization of the 1950s persists because few who invoke the decade bother to remember it correctly. Yes, it was a wonderful decade for some, but it doesn’t take a McGovernite to point out that Jim Crow, segregation, Little Rock, and the mistreatment of women and homosexuals should strike those years from the utopia registry.