A Happy Ending When the Bus Never Comes

In Dusseldorf, Germany, there is a pleasant bus stop with a comfortable bench. But don’t wait for a bus there. It will never arrive.

People do occasionally sit on the bench, and wait for a bus. They come from the Benrath Senior Center which sits just behind it.

The bus stop is an ingenious solution to an occasional problem.

As those of you caring for elderly relatives with dementia know, our loved ones may need to be kept inside, behind locked doors, for their own safety. If they manage to get out of their care facility, a search will ensue. Employees look for them. If they don’t turn up quickly, the police are summoned. This is a horrible thing for all concerned; it’s dangerous for the wanderer who is confused and lost, and terrifying for their family and caregivers fearing for their well-being. The residents of the Benrath Senior Center with dementia are lucky. They aren’t confined to locked wards. All because of a bus stop.

An employee of the center got thinking about how when residents escaped, they often managed to hop on a bus. This observation led to a solution that is good for everyone. The Senior Center built a fake bus stop right in front of their facility. A confused resident who manages to leave the center sees it right away and sits down to wait for a bus.

They might think they’re heading home from work and need to be there for their children, or they may be experiencing a different delusion involving the need to get somewhere else. As they sit on the bench at the bus stop they relax and forget where they were going. Soon someone from the Senior Center arrives and calmly asks if they’d like some tea.

Next thing you know, they’re walking back in the Benrath Senior Center front door on the way to a nice cup of Earl Grey. A practical and elegant solution to a potentially disastrous situation.

And it’s simple.

We tend to run right by the simple and elegant and search mightily for the complex and convoluted.

We do this with products. We do this with services. We do this in running a business. We do it in our everyday lives.

We spend lots of time, effort, and resources when the solution might be as simple, and elegant, as a simple bench at a bus stop, where the bus never comes.

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