14 December 2018, Charlie A Raya
THE ORIGINS OF THE EASY TOWN IDEA
The call came on a Sunday in April 2012.
My friend Easy was in a critical condition after an aneurysm had ruptured in his brain.
About two weeks later, I left Berlin for a small town in the south of Germany and booked a tiny room in a B&B. Some of Easy’s family were there, too.
We visited Easy several times a day. He was still in an induced coma at first, and when he finally woke up, he couldn’t talk, eat or walk.
The seven neurologists in the intensive care unit offered seven outlooks on Easy’s case, ranging from no hope at all to he will be fine again, given time.
After another surgery and more time in intensive care, Easy was transferred to a rehab clinic. Since he didn’t recover fast enough (according to his healthcare insurer), he was transferred again. This time to a nursing home.
It was during my visits to the rehab clinic that the idea for an Easy Town was born. I felt helpless and frustrated, so my brain got busy with finding solutions. How could the situation for neurological patients and for their friends and relatives be improved?
My experiences and observations during this time, as well as the input from other relatives and patients, formed the basis for the Easy Town idea. I will give you three examples, and you can find more examples in book 1: beginning.
1) RELATIVES AND FRIENDS OF PATIENTS
It’s not like the hospital staff wasn’t friendly, but actual support for relatives and friends was missing. So, how could this be addressed? If a patient was treated far away from home, relatives and friends could get an affordable accommodation, a place for their kids in school, and a job in Easy Town. This way, families could support the patients without financial stress. To make this work, the town would need business diversity and flexible job models.
2) A SEPARATE PLACE FOR EACH GROUP
One of the things that struck me most was the isolation of everyone involved in the recovery process.
It seems typical for our time (at least in Western societies) that everyone has their exclusive shut away place. Toddlers are in the nursery, kids at school, adults at work, the ill in hospitals, the disabled and old in nursing homes and so on. There are only few spaces left where generations, and people of different constitutions and walks of life mingle.
Wondering how this point could be taken into account, I started by imagining a town centre which would include rehabilitation facilities, and which would be composed in a way that patients and relatives could be part of a normal everyday life in town.
Another idea was to use tourism as a means to bring people together. To make tourism work, the town would need architectural highlights, gardens worth visiting, recreational offers, and more. The town would need a magic of it’s own. It would have to be a place to relax, to meet artists, to see the progress of the patient. And, maybe relatives and patients could even get involved in the everyday life of the town.
By now, there are many additional ideas, all of which will come up in the book series.
3) STIMULI FOR THE BRAIN
The brain has fascinated me for a while, and I am particularly intrigued by the findings of neurobiologists.
We still know little about this amazing organ, but there can be no doubt that stimuli create reactions.
A person who has suffered from a stroke or depression can do with a lot of positive stimuli, be it sitting in the sun and smelling the freshly baked bread, or from rolling into an artist’s studio with a wheelchair, and watch a new piece of art emerge, and maybe even be allowed to add a splash.
While the brain does also need rest, the last thing it needs is boredom or too much time to worry. It needs stimuli, positive encounters, the notion of being useful, the notion of having some self-control, the notion of being a part of something.
HOW TO FINANCE SUCH A TOWN?
Pretty soon, my business and economics background kicked in, and I asked the obvious questions: How to finance such a town?
I was already playing around with the idea of tourism, and I realised that it might be a means to finance healthcare if it was run by the town.
Again, by now, there are many additional ideas, all of which will be discussed in the book series.
IS EASY TOWN AN UTOPIAN IDEA?
When people started to think about flying, they were laughed at. The first computer was designed, and nobody believed it could become an integral part of our daily lives. When the first light bulbs came on the market, many condemned them as alien if not devilish.
Many ideas start out with the stigma of utopian.
Yet, I believe that even if Easy Town was never built, exploring the idea and it’s implications can be profitable for the design of our futures.
I would love nothing better than to see an Easy Town come to life. For now, I am writing the story of one potential Easy Town Experiment.
WHAT HAS CHANGED SINCE THE ORIGINAL IDEA?
The Easy Town idea started with a clear focus on neurological patients and their relatives. By now, it is a lot more complex and takes nearly every aspect of life into account. For more see: What is the Easy Town idea about?