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Nursing Home Recreates Communist East Germany For Dementia Patients

Trips down memory lane — to a highly regimented place that no longer exists — are the hallmark of this Dresden home for the elderly.
Caretaker Sylvana Tyralla conducts a memory exercise with AlexA nursing home residents in one of two former East German "remembrance rooms." Source: Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson

It's said that time heals all wounds. But not for people afflicted with dementia like Gerda Noack. The 93-year-old German woman's memory is fading, as is her eyesight.

The losses scare her. On a recent morning at the AlexA Residence for Senior Citizens in Dresden, where she lives, Noack sounded anxious as she asked, over and over: "Where am I supposed to go?"

Director Gunter Wolfram gently took her arm and suggested they visit a government-run store from the former communist East Germany called Intershop. The once popular chain no longer exists — but a mockup of the store is only a few steps away.

For the many East Germans who spent decades trying to free themselves from communism's regimented lifestyle, it might seem like a return to captivity. But

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