Two years ago, we wrote about an Alzheimer’s village in south-western France, wherein residents will live in a gated community that will allow them to continue participating in social life.
This exclusive neighborhood—named “Village Landais Alzheimer” after the Landes department where it’s situated—recently opened in June at the city of Dax. Like many small villages in France, this one has a cafe-restaurant, a salon, a library, and a mini-market.
The village hosts 120 residents with an average age of 79. There are 240 medical caregivers and volunteers who live within the community to assist patients as needed. But unlike typical nursing homes, the staff here wear casual clothing instead of white coats.
The tenants also have the freedom to pursue the lifestyles they want in as far as the village’s facilities would allow.
A team of researchers also lives in the facility to conduct a study comparing this village to traditional residential care homes.
This project was inspired by Hogeweyk, a similar initiative in the Netherlands believed to be the first dementia village in the world. There, the patients are grouped in shared houses based on their backgrounds and interests.
The primary objective of Village Landais Alzheimer is to allow its residents to maintain a close relationship with their loved ones and keep their access to the rest of the world. The environment was also made to look like familiar surroundings to prevent a drastic break with the patients’ past lives and maintain a sense of autonomy, which may help slow the progression of the disease.
It consists of four “neighborhoods” with four homes each, with every residence housing about eight people apiece. Despite the freedom provided by the five-hectare community, tenants are forbidden to leave it.
However, they can receive unrestricted visits and have constant access to peaceful walking paths, a pond, and a park equipped with swings, which has become a popular attraction in the village. There’s also a common dining area where residents can eat together.
To add a countryside feel to the area, two donkeys named Junon and Janine also roam freely in the neighborhood.
Madeleine Elissalde, 82, one of the village’s first residents, says she’s enjoying the surrounding countryside and the house she lives in.
“It’s like being at home,” she described the community. “We’re well looked after.”
Aurelie Bouscary, an assistant at the village, shared her thoughts about this setup with AFP.
“The job is still one of caregiving,” she said. “But it is completely different than existing models. I feel like I’m doing my work better.”
The greened community opened just weeks after France lifted its two-month home quarantine. Nursing home residents struggled during this period as they were separated from their loved ones for a significant time. But since they arrived at the village in June, things have become so much better as they regained their freedom.
“They have recovered their motivation and are resuming everyday activities,” said Nathalie Bonnet, a psychologist at the community.
“As there is always someone on hand to address episodes of anxiety or depression, they calm down faster. And as a result, prescriptions for antidepressant treatments can be reduced.”
Since the coronavirus pandemic is still far from over, the village has limited outside contact temporarily. But the plan is to eventually allow the entry of people from nearby cities and towns to attend concerts, participate in village festivals, and even get a haircut at the salon.
The center cost 28 million euros ($33 million) from state funding to build. Each resident pays around 24,000 euros a year in fees, and government agencies pay for the occupancy cost of 65 euros per resident per day.
Take a virtual tour of the Village Landais Alzheimer in the video below.
This project is definitely a life-changing innovation in the realm of dementia care. Hopefully, more governments will adopt the same program in their own countries.
You may visit the Village Landais Alzheimer website to learn more about the community.