Senior and health care institutions are breaking new ground in Canada when it comes to serving people with dementia.

The nation’s first “dementia village,” a community designed specifically for people with the illness, is set to open in Langley in 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,” Elroy Jespersen of Verve Senior Living told the National Post.

Verve, which manages 34 seniors’ homes across Canada, partnered with developer Canbrit to create The Village, a five-acre property that will include six residences with the capacity to house 78 people with dementia.

There will also be a community centre, plenty of room to walk around outdoors, no stairs, the ability to live with one’s pets, and even a barn for farm animals.

“We’ve really designed and tried to build communities where people could be independent and live their own life their way,” said Jespersen.

Meanwhile, Providence Health Care is also working actively to build a dementia village in Vancouver in the next few years.

Jo-Ann Tait, corporate director of seniors care and palliative services, said PHC’s village will offer “multiple levels of care,” with the ability to house 62 people in assisted living, seven in supported housing, and more than 300 in residential care.

“The emergence of multiple dementia village-like residential care homes across Canada is a significant triumph for families and loved ones struggling with this disease,” said Tait.

Both up-and-coming dementia villages are inspired by De Hogeweyk, a pioneer village in the Netherlands that opened in 2009.

It provides housing to 152 residents and includes a market, hair salon, theatre, pub, and restaurant. There are 250 staff offering care 24-hours a day, and opportunities for residents to shop for themselves, help with cooking, or cycle around the property.

“In 15 years, the number of Canadians living with dementia is expected to nearly double, making an expansive embrace of the De Hogeweyk model and beyond more crucial than ever,” said Tait.

It is a “tangible way of bringing back optimism into the lives of people impacted by demetia where optimism was once only a distant memory.”

PHC’s future dementia village is set to be publicly funded, while The Village, opening next year, will be privately paid for and cost an estimated $190-245 a day per person.

PHC opened an Adult Day Program at its Youville Residence in Vancouver back in 2017. That program provides community activities – such as social events, outdoor walks, musical events, gardening, and visits from children at the neighbouring Montessori Day Care – six days a week for adults with dementia.

It also partnered with other faith-based institutions to bring Alzheimer's Cafés to the west coast.

This is the third and final article in a series on dementia. See part one to read about another new initiative, the Alzheimer’sCafé. See part two to learn more about
how spiritual care can help those with the illness.