Australia's first purpose-built dementia village, where people with the illness can live in houses with safe access to a supermarket, cinema, cafes, beauty salon and gardens, is being built in Tasmania.
Korongee village is a $25 million project being built in the suburb of Glenorchy in Hobart, which aged care provider Glenview Community Services believes will change the way we help dementia sufferers.
There are more than 413,106 Australians living with dementia in 2017, and it is the second leading cause of death in Australia.
"We need to do something different," Glenview CEO Lucy O'Flaherty tells SBS.
"Realistically when we look at our aging demographic, and particularly Tasmania that's got the fastest aging population in Australia, we need to change what we do - that's the bottom line.
"We know that creating de-stressing environments is critical in terms of supporting people. So we've spent the last five or six years looking at what works best overseas, and we're really keen to make a difference."
A partnership between Glenview, health sector superannuation fund HESTA, and Social Ventures Australia with funding from the Commonwealth Government, Korongee will feature a village structure based on a typical Tasmanian cul-de-sac streetscape that allows residents to feel at home and wander freely within a safe and supported environment.
“In essence Korongee will create an authentic suburban village environment for those living with dementia, with 15 demographically tailored homes set within a small town context complete with streets, a supermarket, cinema, café, beauty salon and gardens,” Glenview Chairman Iain Weir says.
“Korongee’s design will make it possible for residents living with dementia to walk around the village and participate in everyday life decisions which are presently not available to those in dementia care, activities such as going to the café to buy a coffee or simply heading to the supermarket to buy groceries for dinner.
"The Korongee village draws on a range of international best practice models, particularly the dementia village of De Hogeweyk in the Netherlands, while contextualising this into a uniquely Tasmanian experience.
“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."
The village will consist of 15 houses, each with six bedrooms, which will be staffed by health professionals who act as 'home makers' to provide residents with an authentic home-like environment.
O’Flaherty said people living with dementia often struggle with unfamiliar spaces, colours and even décor which is why each house will be designed to create familiar cultural touchstones of Tasmanian suburban life.
“The University of Tasmania will undertake demographic research to inform what makes up the most common elements of a Tasmanian lifestyle to inform the design, décor, and which house and lifestyle profile each resident is most suited to within the village,” O’Flaherty said.
“Creating an authentic environment is the key to this cutting edge model, with residents within each house to be matched by their similar backgrounds, experiences, interests and skills."
Construction is expected to commence in early 2018, to be completed by mid to late 2019, and O'Flaherty says the village will be affordable and accessible to anyone, regardless of their financial situation.
"This is actually about working with the most marginalised in our community," she says.
"We firmly believe we need to be able to offer the same services to someone who's got nothing to someone who could potentially put down a million dollar bond, so this will be no more expensive than any other aged care facility.
"If we can get it right, we're really keen to share this. We actually want to help the sector make that huge leap in change. We want to show that you can actually do this for the most vulnerable in our community and still make it financially viable."