In Tokyo, Japan, a restaurant aims to change stereotypes and raise awareness about dementia by hiring servers with the condition. Known as the Restaurant of Mistaken Orders, its goal is to create an open and welcoming community for people living with dementia and Alzheimer’s, and to help keep them integrated in society.
There are some 50 million people in the world living with dementia, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), and 10 million new cases occur each year. People with dementia, including those with Alzheimer’s, develop problems with memory and cognition throughout different stages that worsen with age.
Many people with dementia end up no longer working, living at home with full-time caregivers or in nursing homes. But there is some evidence that increased socializing and having a support system can be beneficial for patients. Community living environments also often help dementia patients avoid isolation and loneliness.
The idea for the restaurant stemmed from the desire to bring people with dementia together in a working community, and to spread awareness that the disease doesn’t have to prevent people from living life. In fact, the restaurant discovered that people with dementia wanted to work and stay busy.
“It started as a small trial event; a survey was conducted afterwards, and it was proven through numeric evidence that people with dementia worked vivaciously out of their free will, and customers also truly enjoyed the experience,” Tsutomu Hirakue, who was involved with the restaurant, told Being Patient. “[Discovering] that a fun space could be created even if a mistake occurred — or [even] enjoyed more when a mistake occurred — led to the participation of many corporations and local government organizations.”
Though some of the servers are prone to serving water twice or mixing up orders, customers laugh it off and simply enjoy the food they receive.
“Since dementia is a sensitive issue, there was a necessity to prove that [the restaurant could be] an event that is fun,” Hirakue said. “People feel at ease and smile from the bottom of their hearts regardless of having dementia or not.”
On its website, the Restaurant of Mistaken Orders notes that “All our servers are people living with dementia. However, rest assured that even if your order is mistaken, everything on our menu is delicious and one of a kind.”
The restaurant adds, “We hope this feeling of openness and understanding will spread across Japan, and through the world.”
Linda Freud produced the video and contributed to reporting for this article.