Canada’s First Dementia Village
One hour from Vancouver lies one of Canada’s newest and most unique neighborhoods. Comprised of human-scale single storey buildings, The Village Langley is rather unassuming at first glance. Here, residents talk to one another in the garden, stroll pathways with family members, or get their hair trimmed at the salon. Life in The Village Langley mimics the status quo. This, itself, is the novelty.
The Village Langley is Canada’s first memory care community, designed specifically to enable people with dementia to live their lives as fully and freely as possible. This means that residents wake up when they want, eat when they want, and choose their own activities as opposed to the more restricting schedules typical of elderly care facilities.
“We don’t want the primary focus to be on a person’s disease or disability”, says project lead Elroy Jesperson. Instead, the goal of The Village is to enable residents to live their lives as autonomously as possible for as long as possible. This doesn’t mean a lack of care though- in fact, quite the opposite.
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The Village is supported by 72 staff who help make the lives of their 76 residents as comfortable as possible. Residents are split amongst six homes where they live “family-style” with 11 other “villagers”, and a household manager. Additional support is provided by a team of nurses and Enriched Learning Facilitators, or ELFs for short. Each home is comprised of shared spaces such as a living room, library, and dining room as well as private bedrooms and en suite bathrooms for each resident. In the kitchen, residents are welcome to make snacks whenever they like, or help the chef prepare the upcoming meal if they are interested in cooking.
At the heart of The Village is the Oakwood Community Centre where residents can chat with each other by the fireplace or enjoy a freshly baked sweet with visitors in the café. This warm and inviting centre is comprised of an art space, a café, a salon, a post office, a general store, and a workshop space where residents can participate in music, yoga, and dance classes. Here, resident’s can continue their daily routines in a care-focused environment that is supportive of the needs of people living with dementia. Resident’s are free to make appointments with staff at the hair salon and “shop” for groceries at the general store, though everything is given to them free of charge.
IBI Mental Health Lead, Wendy de Silva was very excited to learn about The Village as IBI are working on several innovative dementia projects. “It’s inspiring to see that The Village is empowering people and giving them so much choice. This project is a strong message for care providers and designers about the future direction of dementia care.”
Elroy, who has spent decades in the industry, sees The Village as the culmination of his life’s work. Before retiring, Elroy was determined to develop a new kind of seniors community in Canada. This unique model of care was greatly inspired by de Hogeweyk in Holland and the Green House Project in the US, where residents retain their independence and sense of freedom for as long as possible. In Elroy’s eyes, residents’ safety should be considered a by-product rather than the goal. “There is such a thing as surplus safety: a focus on safety to the detriment of everything else. Purpose, meaningful activities, well-being and fulfillment are often totally neglected, and these matter just as much, if not more.”
Now that The Village has opened its doors, Elroy has made the decision to retire after a long career of hard work. He hopes that he Village inspires a shift in elderly care services and facilitates new opportunities in how we support our loved ones.