A revolutionary care concept which enables people with dementia to live longer, happier lives could soon arrive in Britain.
Plans for a £15m ‘dementia village’ in Kent have been welcomed by many family carers as a sign of hope for the future. The 15-acre village would have specially designed houses, shops, cinemas, landscaped gardens and even a village square. It would, in essence, be a community; a safe place where people with dementia could live happily and independently, whilst care staff looked on.
Dementia villages are nothing new. The first, named Hogeweyk, opened in 2009 in Holland and has proved a great success. Hogeweyk, near Amsterdam, has 152 residents who simply get on with living their lives; they can go shopping, drink tea in a café, visit a hairdresser or go to a cinema. But their daily lives in this self-contained village are closely watched by 240 ‘villagers’ who are actually dementia trained professionals.
The concept works. Residents of Hogeweyk have been shown to live longer and need less medication than those living in a more traditional care home.
When UK developers visited Hogeweyk they were deeply impressed by what they saw. ‘I was sitting in the coffee shop and after a while I realised I was being served by one of the residents who was volunteering there,’ recalls Simon Wright, Chief Executive of Kent-based developers Corinthian. ’It’s an incredibly well designed and secure community with green spaces where residents can stay physically mobile and mentally active.’
Corinthian, and the care company Avante, will find out in May if their plans have been approved. If they are, the UK could have its own Hogeweyk as soon as 2021.
The Kent village would house 250 people and be situated near Canterbury. Like Hogeweyk, residents would be able to volunteer to work in the village shop or café and live in houses of varying size, depending on their needs and interests. Care staff would provide constant care, but residents’ independence would be paramount.
The first UK dementia village is part of a massive new housing project Mountfield Park which would also provide 4000 new homes in Canterbury.
If it’s a success, it seems likely that other developers in the UK will quickly follow suit. After all, property consultants are already calling for a ‘revolution’ in the way people with dementia are catered for in the housing system, and family carers are desperate for more care choices.
Members of the Unforgettable Dementia Support Group discussed the village plans this week and decided it was a ‘brilliant ‘idea, though they did have one important question: How much will it all cost?
Unfortunately, prices aren’t available yet, but it seems that residents would be able to rent or buy their accommodation, which suggests a degree of flexibility. So, if Canterbury does become the first place in the UK to have a dementia village, let’s hope it won’t be only the wealthy who can afford to live there.