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Designing for dementia: Long-term memory care, from the ground up (Holy Family Hospital)

The Village Langley is a community for people living with various forms of dementia. (Photo credit: www.theglobeandmail.com)
The Village Langley is a community for people living with various forms of dementia. (Photo credit: www.theglobeandmail.com)

The Main Boulevard at the Village, a new development in Langley, B.C., wends through an idyllic scene. Car-free and edged by flower gardens, it starts at something called the Community Building – an airy, skylight space with a spa, salon and fireside café – before passing by clusters of quaint cottages, each painted a unique, rich colour such as terra cotta or teal. The path ends at the Farm – a large vegetable patch with a bright-red barn overlooking a babbling creek surrounded by tall poplar, spruce and birch trees.

Ostensibly, the Village is a suburban fantasy land – the kind of community where many parents would want to raise their kids. It even has a pond, a gazebo and an embarrassment of white picket fences. But the details of the neighbourhood reveal a different, deeper purpose. The cottages are single-storey for wheelchair accessibility, and in fact aren’t cottages at all. Each only looks like a separate home from the outside to create a cozier scale. Within, they are conjoined by communal kitchens, lounges and dining rooms – social spaces for the 72 residents, all of whom have dementia, the most common form of which is Alzheimer’s.

Holy Family Hospital, in Vancouver, has been around since 1953 and has plenty of long, indistinct corridors. Although the hospital is in the process of building a new facility, the project will take a number of years and the hospital administrators wanted to do something more immediate for their care of patients with dementia. Recently, they’ve switched to a person-centric model. If someone is not a morning person, they no longer have to get up for breakfast at the crack of dawn. They also started introducing a number of design updates, most of which are small and inexpensive, to improve the current building.

Read the full story in The Globe and Mail.

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