In August of 2018, the first visitors to Town Square® arrived at their purpose-built ‘reminiscence therapy’ scene. This 1950’s replica town square, located in a suburb of San Diego, California, is part of the treatment which eldercare specialists say has “...positive effects on mood, cognition and communication level of dementia patients”. Reminiscence therapy utitlises context and objects to encourage participants to trade stories and reminisce, and focuses specifically on the life-phase which dementia and alzheimer’s patients generally focus on - their adolescence. The town setting imitates the 1950s as it corresponds to the adolescence of current 70 and 80 year old patients.
Advancements in healthcare, nutrition, and technology mean that people are living longer and longer, but while many solutions exists to combat corporal deterioration, the mind is a different story. As we push human lives longer, we will need ever more advanced methods for keeping our minds fit and able. This imitation 1950s town square in California marks an interesting development in creating alternative realities in service of the human mind. Will changing the physical context in which the mind operates become a popular way of treating cognitive disease? If so, will ever-more-realistic digital virtual realities enter as a viable alternative? Furthermore, with more and more of human time spent online in virtual worlds, what society-wide development could we see regarding cognitive wellbeing and experience design?