The World’s First Dementia Village


The BBC recently reported on a pioneering experiment taking place in France. The project will see the French create the world’s first Alzheimer’s ‘village’. Whilst there are currently places that exist which look to create ‘home-like’ environments for people with dementia by giving them access to shopping experiences from years gone by and other memory aids the French are taking the approach to a whole new level.

Initially inspired by the work of their Dutch neighbours who created a successful ‘village’ experience the French have gone far beyond this by creating an open structure, close to the city of Dax. There will be no visible fences, but secure pathways and everything will be implemented in the village "to maintain the participation of residents in social life", according to Professor Jean-François Dartigues, neurologist and epidemiologist at Bordeaux's CHU Pellegrin university hospital.

To maintain a sense of normality the village is being designed to look like a traditional medieval “bastide” – a fortified town, common across France. Sitting in 17 acres the village will be divided into four parts distributed around a central square, and will include a supermarket, hairdressers and restaurant to encourage social interaction. Interestingly the village will incorporate a research centre which will compare its results against methods in traditional nursing homes. The researchers will live in the village alongside the residents, as well as a large team of carers and many volunteers, who will be involved in organising activities for the residents. Pet therapy will also be introduced to help improve patients mental, social, emotional, and physical functions. The village is due to open at the end of 2019 and will have 120 residents.

At this point in time there is no cure for dementia, however Scientists around the world are citing 2025 as a time by which significant progress will have been made and treatments currently being tested in clinical trials will lead to the first effective and widely available medication. So, whilst we wait for, and look with optimism towards 2025, the pioneering work of the French must be applauded as the shared learnings will certainly benefit those already diagnosed, no matter which country they live.

Karen Perry
Founder alice chilton In-Home Care Services Limited