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France’s first ‘Alzheimer village’ mirrors local life

France’s first Alzheimer’s village is set to welcome its first residents at the end of this month.

The village in Dax, in the Landes, is based on models from the Netherlands and built with architectural clues from villages typical of the region.

The idea is that people who are suffering from Alzheimer’s disease will feel at home in a familiar environment. Staff in  the village will not wear any sort of uniform.

Administrative staff moved on to the site in February, and the first 70 operational and health workers are due to start work in mid-March before the 120 residents arrive.

Mathilde Charon-Burnel, spokeswoman for the Landes, said: “We are all pleased that the project has been built on time and on budget.

“When the project was first announced, we said that, if successful, we hope it will serve as a model for others.

“We will be carrying out a full assessment of its effectiveness and the quality of life of residents compared to people in more traditional support structures, which should be ready in three years.”

Most of the residents are from the Landes and neighbouring departments, but a few have come from further away.

The village cost €28.8million to build, at least double the cost of normal specialised Alzheimer care homes, but they are designed for between 20 and 30 residents, so the cost per resident is more or less the same. Funding is coming from the department and regional and national health authorities, with the Landes taking out a €14.8million loan as part of its contribution.

Running costs will be around €6.7million a year.

Socialist politician Henri Emmanuelli, who died in 2017, was the instigator of the project after visiting the village of Weesp, near Amsterdam, as part of a parliamentary committee studying Alzheimer’s treatment in France.

Planners took inspiration for the Dax village from the bastide lay-out typical of south west France, and the village includes a central square, café/restaurant, a hall suitable for concerts, a village store and a hairdresser.

Bastide villages were introduced during the British occupation of Aquitaine in the late medieval period and usually have a planned street pattern around a central square (see here).

Spread over five hectares, the village is divided into four quarters. In total, there are 16 homes of 300m2 , with each building having between seven and eight residents.

There are gardens where residents who grew vegetables at home will be able to continue doing so, and an area with poultry and other animals, which will be looked after by residents who are used to working with them.


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