If you travel almost anywhere in the world, you have probably noticed the growing number of retirement villages, senior living communities, seniors-only apartment complexes and all types of “assisted living” facilities for our aging population.. Senior living developments are ideal for people who like the idea of neighbors in the same age category, activities already planned and facilities such as golf courses, tennis courts and swimming pools nearby.
These communities are marketed as a lifestyle choice for people just beginning retirement and, unfortunately, 20 years later, their health may have changed. While many of these facilities are connected to long term care or medical centers, others are stand alone communities which are a great resource as long as residents are physically and mentally capable of taking care of themselves. But once dementia affects a resident, too many administrators of the retirement communities don’t know what to do.
According the ABC News of Australia, this problem arose in Australia which has 2500 retirement villages but no firm guidelines on what to do if residents need more support. Now Alzheimer’s Australia and the Property Council of Australia have written a Dementia Guide for the Australian Retirement Village Industry to help deal with the challenges of residents with dementia.
The guide includes advice on design of the villages, training of staff, safety of residents, health care and tips for engaging with residents and their families. The authors hope the guide will lead to more dementia-friendly options so residents can maintain independent lives as long as possible.
Some of the homes are already dementia-friendly, according to a company providing residential services. Features such as uniquely painted doors or special door handles help residents identify their own homes, painted lines on pathways and walls prevent people from getting lost, and there are suggestions for programs to keep minds active and independent. The goal is to keep residents with dementia engaged with others so they do not become socially isolated. The result is a better quality of life and a way of coping that retains dignity for the affected person and his or her family..
The challenge for every country is to develop care and support in the retirement villages without making them unaffordable, as most of these communities are self funded and residents pay up front when they first move in. As one village executive said, “I think it is a societal requirement that we start to design an environment where people can age without barriers.”