Australia's getting a state-of-the-art 'dementia village'

Complications from dementia are the second most common cause of death in Australia, but aged care facilities can fall short when it comes to providing a safe, happy environment for their residents.

Even in the best retirement and aged care communities, there are understandable restrictions on dementia sufferers, especially those who may need more care and attention due to the nature of illness. For example, ‘wandering’, where a person becomes confused or disoriented either before they walk somewhere or during a walk, is relatively common among people with dementia, and can be difficult to standard aged care facilities to manage.

But change is coming; within two years, Australia will have its very own $25 million village purpose-built for people with dementia. Located in Tasmania, the Korongee village aims to provide a “real life experience” for dementia patients, much like the famous De Hogeweyk in the Netherlands. 

Some government funding will be provided, but the majority of costs will be covered by Glenview Community Services and HESTA superannuation fund. 

“It has been shown that residents at the De Hogeweyk dementia village live longer, eat better and take fewer medications and we hope to see similar transformative health benefits at Korongee,” Lucy O’Flaherty, Glenview’s CEO, says.

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Korongee will reportedly accept dementia sufferers of any age, including those with early-onset cases. The village will include real shops, a cinema, a beauty salon, and a supermarket, all with a unique Tasmanian flair that helps locals feel more at home. The idea is that residents can buy their own groceries or see a movie within the community with no fear of getting lost or being overwhelmed by the hustle and bustle of society.

The village will be built in Glenorchy, north of Hobart. Residents will be housed based on their individual lifestyles.  

“A person who has worked as a tradesman all their life will most likely have a routine involving an early start and knocking off at 3pm,” O’Flaherty explains 

Each of the 15 houses will have six bedrooms for residents, and plain-clothes health professionals will staff the houses, keeping the residents safe and comfortable. 

The success of Korongee may lead to other Australian states creating their own dementia villages in the near future, but it makes sense for the first community to be situated in Tasmania; the most recent Census confirmed that one in five Tasmanians is aged 65 or over, making it the oldest state population in Australia. 

Would a purpose-built dementia village make you think differently about aged care?