Australia's first ever uniquely-designed village for those living with dementia will soon be built in Tasmania. Experts say that the decision by HESTA, health sector superannuation fund, to finance a purpose-built suburb for people with dementia will pave the way for alternative aged-care models to institutional nursing homes.

HESTA announced plans to invest AUD19 million into this project. The AUD25 million complex called Korongee aims to re­create real experiences for dementia sufferers within a safe space. Known to be the second leading cause of death in the country, dementia is forecasted to affect over 1.1 million people by 2056.

Korongee to accommodate 90 residents and ensures privacy is maintained

International models inspired the design of this village – notably the De Hogeweyk village in Netherlands. This spectacular establishment in Netherlands has witnessed significant health improvements in dementia patients over its eight-year existence. As it turns out, residents are living longer, are less reliant on medication and more active.

Korongee will be built in the suburb of Glenorchy in Hobart – comprising 15 six-bedroom houses, a supermarket, cafe, beauty salon, health and wellbeing centre, as well as gardens. It will also feature a single-screen cinema, where residents can take family and friends for a matinee viewing. The interior structures and layout have been designed to reflect the surrounding Tasmanian landscape.

Overall, the village can accommodate 90 residents, but the public will be allowed to visit to encourage normality. The privacy of residents will be maintained through the availability of separate public and private spaces.

Besides HESTA, the project is backed by aged care provider Glenview Community Services and the Commonwealth Government. Tasmania is a prime location for testing novel caring techniques as it is home to Australia’s oldest and fastest ageing population.

Village structure promotes independence and normal living

Glenview CEO Lucy O’Flaherty commented on the importance of this structure, “For us, this is actually about providing a service for those people who can't afford to get into a service that might be bells and whistles that would cost dollars. This is actually about responding to the most disadvantaged in our community.”

“This model is not just about having a home that looks familiar to you, it’s also about being able to wander freely, and if you want to buy a bottle of water or a newspaper – you are able to do that independently,” she added.

Interestingly, there will be no age limit for the residents there and even those with early-onset dementia are allowed to reside in the village. The housing allows for residents who share similar lifestyles to be housed in the same sections – for example, putting artists and writers together.

O’Flaherty said, “They'll have staff that will [take part in] discreet observation, there will be technology, the design of the facility will be as such that it will support residents within the village.”

In keeping with normality, this project is set to provide up to 50 local jobs during and after construction. The village shops and supermarkets also enable on-going employment opportunities.

“We will be supporting all the staff, whether they are the staff of these organisations, to get trained so they're really clear about dementia, how to care for people living with dementia to create the most normal and real environment,” added O’Flaherty.

The University of Tasmania is researching and designing the decor of the houses. Construction of Korongee is projected to commence next year and to be completed by mid to late 2019. MIMS

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