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First look at Canada's first 'village' for people with dementia
There's a general store, hair salon, cafe and even a "farm," complete with a barn and vegetable patch.
It may sound like what you'd find a small community, and that's the idea: only this community is contained to a fenced-in five-acre lot in Langley, and has been specifically designed for people with dementia and similar cognitive disorders.
The Village, as it's called, is a private care facility on 198th Street that's scheduled to open its doors in August. It can house up to 76 people, and features "cottage-like" homes all set at ground-level, to allow for easy access to the outdoors.
CTV News Vancouver got its first look at the site on Tuesday.
Project architect Eitaro Hirota said the complex has been designed so people can "find their own daily routine."
"We want to keep the environment as close to the everyday as possible," Hirota said.
The design is also very intentional in terms of helping residents find their way around, according to Hirota.
Signs identifying each house also include symbols, and the buildings are distinguished by colour.
Natural elements, such as a water feature, have also been incorporated to give diverging paths a different look.
"You have to make it safe and comfortable for them to wander out," Hirota said.
The complex includes a "wander management system" which alerts staff if residents get too close to the fences. However, the complex is meant to allow people to explore the grounds as they please, with curving walkways that always lead to a "clear destination," and no dead ends.
Barb, who asked that her last name not be used, plans to attend a public open house at the Village this Saturday with her family.
She said her 81 year-old mother has early onset dementia, and they are considering moving her to the new facility from her current care home.
"Our mother was a very, very active person. She had a large garden, a large property that she cared for mostly on her own until she was 79 years of age," Barb said, and added her mother is now less active than she used to be.
"The philosophy of this community, as I understand it, is going to be one of more involvement. That is, here, cut the tomatoes to help with the making of tonight's salad for dinner. Or here, here's a pair of gardening gloves and pair of shears, go on out and just enjoy the garden," she said.
Barb's mother is also living on the fourth floor of her current complex, another barrier to her getting outside and becoming more active.
"For her to go outside of the building on her own, can't happen. And I'm sure her fear level is such that she doesn't even attempt it. She doesn't attempt it. But for a community like this, she could just step outside her door without fear that's she's going to get lost anywhere," she said.
Monthly rent for a basic unit at the Village is $7,300. For a suite with more complex care involved, it's $8,300.
Currently, there are no subsidized spaces available, though development manager Scott Thorburn said they are open to the idea, and added those conversations are not happening yet.
Alzheimer Society of BC CEO Maria Howard said not everyone with dementia will ultimately go into care, but the village is another option at a time when demand is overwhelming supply.
"Our long-term care homes are full. A lot of them are not set up to deal with people with dementia," Howard said, and added the scope of the village model is a "first" for Canada.
"To actually take the outside space and more of a physical setting that looks like a community, this is the first kind. So it's going to be really exciting to see how this grows," she said.
Hirota said the idea of creating a community at the village also includes bringing members of the public into the facility to interact with the residents, from volunteers to community groups.
"That mix of bringing in people from the outside of the facility is very important to maintain that sense of the everyday," he said, and added it's also hoped that personal connection will help create more awareness about dementia and Alzheimer's.
"I've been talking to the operators about having food carts come in, have seasonal events."
The creation of village development was influenced by "the world's first dementia village, de Hogeweyk, located in the Netherlands and by the Green House Project in the U.S.
It will have a staff of 72 people, and will be operated and managed by Verve Seniors Living.