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living in the past

A £17 million home for the elderly and confused has been constructed near Bern in Switzerland in the style of a mock 1950s village.

Staff who appear to be working as gardeners, hairdressers and shop assistants will actually be trained in helping dementia sufferers.

The undercover carers will be there to prevent accidents and intervene if any of the 150 residents wander off. The project has been referred to, unhelpfully, in the media as Dementiaville. Some experts doubt the benefits of parking patients in a fake past. Others argue that reminiscence therapy is useful in treating dementia.

I have thought it over carefully and when it is my time to go forward into the past, I want to be in an old folks' home in Lisbon where every day is May 25, 1967, when Celtic won the European Cup.

Comely Portuguese nurses pretending to be waitresses will bring glasses of chilled white port and delicious custard tarts as the residents discuss Tommy Gemmell's rasping equaliser and Steve Chalmers's cheeky winner.

Others may choose television fantasy. How about popping granny into a Downton Abbey care home? She can be the Countess of Carntyne. Carson the butler is really a consultant geriatrician. Branson the chauffeur is actually a paramedic. Daisy the scullery maid has just passed her HNC in catering and hospitality.

Unlike most old folks' homes where nothing happens, there will be plenty to discuss in a pretend Downton eventide residence. The sad loss on the Titanic of Patrick, the heir to the earldom. The terrible business of the Great War. Not to mention this Spanish influenza that's going about. Then there was that visiting Turkish diplomat who was seducing Lady Mary and died in her bed. Took three of them to sneak his body out of the bedroom to avoid a scandal.

For genteel dwelling in the past, Brideshead would be better than Downton. Sipping champagne, nibbling at plovers' eggs and wondering if Sebastian has been rusticated from Oxford yet.

Such care-free care homes would be expensive. You may find yourself economically parked down in Shieldinch reliving River City. Sharing a can of Irn-Bru with Shellsuit Bob. Listening to that hairdresser bloke reliving his moment of passion in the community centre with Gina from the café. And, in real life, you're actually in Dumbarton.

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