(Original article by Kevin Griffin, The Vancouver Sun, February 28, 2018)
Canada’s first community designed specifically for people with dementia is opening next year in Langley.
It’s called The Village. Comprised of six, single-storey cottage-style homes and a community centre, The Village will be home to 78 people with dementia, an umbrella term that includes people suffering from Alzheimer’s and other degenerative brain diseases associated with aging. Care will be provided by 72 specially trained staff.
Project leader Elroy Jespersen said The Village’s design was inspired by Hogeweyk, the world’s first dementia village, in The Netherlands.
Jespersen, the vice-president of special projects for Verve Senior Living, said The Village builds on the other assisted- and extended-care communities he has developed during the past 29 years.
“We’ve really designed and tried to build communities where people could be independent and live their own life their way,” Jespersen said. “And by and large we were able to do that — with the one exception when somebody developed dementia and they could no longer live safely in our communities. We thought we should add another piece to that to allow them to stay within, if you will, our ‘family’ of communities.”
The Village is at 3920 198th St., which is known as the Old Bradshaw Elementary School site.
Groundbreaking is Wednesday, and Jesperson said he expects The Village to be finished by April 2019.
“What makes The Village different from traditional nursing homes … is that residents will be able to shop, have a coffee, walk their dog, get their hair cut and take part in activities such as gardening by themselves,” Jespersen said.
Three of the cottages will be designed to allow a couple to live together, and the other three will have an extra guest room for short-term stays for people with dementia.
Living in the privately funded project won’t be cheap. Jespersen said he is still working on final numbers, but he estimates it will cost between $190 to $245 a day per person, or $6,000 to $7,500 a month.
“People will say that’s a lot of money, and it absolutely is a lot of money,” he said. “It’s about the same amount of money we would get from the government if the government funded us to provide care. That’s what it costs to do what we’re doing.”
Jespersen said The Village would be open to working with government to make it more affordable to people so that there is a real community of people of different income levels.
The world’s first “dementia village” is Hogeweyk outside of Amsterdam, where 152 people live in 23 houses on 3.7 acres. Residents can walk the streets, squares and gardens and go to a theatre and grocery store.
In Hogeweyk, the buildings are designed so they create a border that allows residents to wander safely within the property. Access is controlled by a single entry and exit.
The Village will have a similar design, but in a rural setting on five acres. The site will be surrounded by an eight-foot perimeter fence designed to blend in with its surroundings.
Jespersen said The Village has been designed to give people “unfettered access to the outside.” All the residences are at ground level so no one has to negotiate steps to enter their home. No locks on doors also allows residents freedom to move.
“Everyone comes in through one door in the community centre … and they leave that way,” he said. “Once you’re beyond that, people can move about, sit on the benches, and go wherever the path leads.”
The Village includes a barn that could be home to chickens and other farm animals, but that will be up to the residents to decide, Jespersen said.
“If we’re going to give more than lip-service to person-directed living, we can’t say we’re going to do this, this and this. Until we have people living there, we don’t know what we’re going to do,” he said. “We do know that most people have pets in their lives. If you have a pet, they’re welcome to come to The Village with you. If you don’t, we can arrange to have pets. I hope there will be a bit of a menagerie.”
In Metro Vancouver, another dementia village is being planned by Providence Health Care on the St. Vincent’s Hospital site at Heather Street and West 33rd. Not expected to open for several years, the village would be home to more than 300 people with dementia. Providence Health Care operates several health facilities, including St. Paul’s Hospital and Mount Saint Joseph Hospital.