Former Langley school site becoming seniors complex for those with dementia

The Village broke ground on Wednesday but was groundbreaking for seniors care before then.

When The Village opens in 2019 at the site of the former Bradshaw School in Brookswood, it will be the first care facility in B.C. and possibly Canada devoted to people with cognitive issues such as dementia and Alzheimer’s.

The Village will be a gated community with cottages, shops, a café, a farm and a community centre.

Modeled on European sites, The Village is for an overlooked segment of the seniors population, according to Elroy Jespersen, the project leader with Verve Senior Living.

Fifty years ago, he studied at Trinity Western University before transferring to UBC and working for the Township. He went on to spend his career in seniors care.

About five years ago, he and the others involved in the project started looking to create a community specifically for people with dementia and related cognitive issues. The found the Bradshaw site, at 39th Avenue and 198th Street, about two years ago.

The Village is being built by Canbrit, run by Verve and paid for by a group of families that call themselves Garden Investors Group. These players have already created six other seniors facilities in B.C. but nothing this specialized.

“It’s an under-served market and where it’s served, it’s often served by institutional living,” said Sheila Elworthy, speaking on behalf of the investors.

She also acknowledged that “it’s also going to be a less profitable model than the other homes we have.”

The hope, though, is that others companies adopt this model and build more such dedicated facilities.

Jespersen noted that there are school closures in Vancouver and other districts, and these seem natural places for such seniors complexes.

“I’ve always thought that if we could do one and we could get it running and we could show people what happens, other people will hopefully say ‘Why can’t we have one of those’,” Jespersen said.

Verve Senior Living has had interest from throughout the Lower Mainland about the Langley complex.

“There were some people who thought ‘Langley, nobody’s going to go to Langley’,” he said.

But the Village will be a destination where people can have a loved one in this unique community and still be within a reasonable driving distance, he said.

“Quite frankly, Langley turns out to be very central,” Jespersen noted.

Health

The Village is built so people with other health issues besides cognitive one, can live. There is wheelchair accessibility, lifts and more.

“All of our houses have been designed to long-term care or complex care guidelines,” he added.

And there are three buildings that would allow for spouses to live together, in instances where one has cognitive issues and another doesn’t.

“We have all heard horror stories about couples that have been torn apart,” Jespersen commented.

He called on anyone interested in working at the unique complex to contact Verve and noted that when it’s open, there will be a not-for-profit called Friends of the Village that people can join as volunteers and supporters of the residents.

The vision is that the site will be integrated into the community so that there are buddy programs, and clubs and groups, for instance, that are formed including residents and non-residents.

The future

Most people will live in their homes as seniors and will not have cognitive issues, noted B.C. Seniors Advocate Isobel Mckenzie, who was at the unveiling ceremony Wednesday.

“But we need to remember that there are those who won’t, and we need to remember that those people are most deserving of our attention and our resources,” she noted.

She praised the project as offering people a new option for seniors care and such things are needed as the population ages.

“I think we need a whole continuum of care models,” she told the Langley Advance. “Obviously this will appeal to people who have some means… The question is how do people without those means find care?”

“Your economic status shouldn’t determine your dignity of life as some of the infirmities of aging are visited upon you,” Mckenzie added.

She said all seniors deserve dignity, and it’s up to the individual to determine what he or she considers dignity. The Norwegian facility that The Village is modeled upon houses people with like-minded people and often that based on socio-economics.

About 10 per cent of beds in this province are private pay but more are expected in the future as the demographics shift to a higher proportion of seniors and people, at least in the Lower Mainland, see revenue from their homes provide more financial choice than they ever expected, she said.

Currently in B.C. seniors needing to be in care facilities don’t have a great deal of choice where they go and who they live with, and the spots are a mix of private pay and public funding. Mckenzie added she would like to see a model where the funds follow the person to whichever style of care they choose or require.

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Township Mayor Jack Froese and others spoke at a ceremony Feb. 28 to spotlight the project. (Heather Colpitts/Langley Advance)

The project groundbreaking included a celebratory cake. (Heather Colpitts/Langley Advance)

Scott Thorburn is the development manager with Canbrit, the company building the complex. (Heather Colpitts/Langley Advance)

The groups building The Village held a groundbreaking ceremony on Feb. 28. (www.jonbenjamin.ca photo)

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