In southwestern France, a revolutionary project is underway to build a facility that allows Alzheimer's patients to live comfortably. The Village Landais Alzheimer in Dax will be a space where those with Alzheimer's will live freely, without medication, in an enclosed enclave designed to mirror the freedom they enjoyed while maintaining safety.
The project was inspired by a similar site in the Netherlands, which spurred then-local MP Henri Emmanuelli to take up the cause. Known as “Alzheimer's Village,” the facility not only has different housing areas with residences built to suit different tastes, but also has a supermarket, hairdresser, library, and gym among other facilities. The idea is that an increase in freedom will also increase happiness, and bring down the need for medication. Residents will not be able to leave the site, and will be cared for by plain-clothed medical staff.
Neurologist Jean-François Dartigues says that by maintaining a typical lifestyle, patients will continue their normal social routines and exercise their brains. “They will find a form of integrity, social, human. They will do their shopping, go to the hairdresser, the bistro, the restaurant, the theater,” he shares. “They will have fun. What constitutes a form of extraordinary therapy.”
To ease the transition, Champagnat & Grègoire Architects and NORD Architects designed a village that adheres to the traditional architecture of the region. Built to resemble a medieval fortress town typical of the Landes area, houses are grouped in blocks of four around a courtyard, with each area having a distinct identity. Walkways draped with nature connect the areas, with the paths providing sensory stimulation and a way for the patients to interact with nature.
In addition to medical staff, researchers and volunteers who organize activities will become a part of village life. The Alzheimer's Village is currently under construction, with an aim of opening by the end of 2019.