Just because people with dementia and other complex needs have health issues, it does not mean their wants and needs differ from that of a healthy person.

They -too, want to have real lives and want to be able to connect and grow. And for older people, that should be reflected in their aged care home.

The Village by Scalabrini, in the suburb of Drummoyne, is an aged care home with a difference. It’s unlike anything you have seen – or would imagine – for an aged care home.

It looks like a little town, with a cafe and a clock tower. Tall casas, looking down at the piazza – the heart of the village – which has its central water fountain.

There’s even a chapel with a huge illuminating crucifix that illuminates the whole area. It’s bright and welcoming.

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“We wanted to create a new vision for our model of care. One that revolves around people living with dementia and how we could better support them,” says Katie Formston, who is was in charge of the formation architecture for the Village.

Katie has been with the Village since the very beginning, four years ago and one of their main focuses was that they wanted to “take away any unnecessary challenges”. Make life simpler, by still enjoyable and fulfilling.  

Reflecting on their Italian heritage, the Scalabrini Village has adopted “sono io” which means “this is me” and in the Village they want to encourage this idea that it is a place where “I can be me”, says Elaine Griffin, Chief Executive Officer of the service.

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It underpins a sense of home, family and community. The Village, with a few changes and adjustments, reflects what life would be like if the resident were still at home. All with the support of care staff who are always available.

But it is the residents who have control. It’s a co-creation model where the residents can make decisions themselves about how the Village evolves.

Because the Village is different to the typical aged care home, the staffing is also different too.

There is a “Wellbeing Manager”, something you don’t normally see in aged care, whose focus is to on ensuring that the resident’s wellbeing is being maintained and that they are having a great life.

This contrasts a standard aged care facility where there usually would be a clinical care manager, but their role would be primarily focused on clinical aspects of care. The Village has both.

The whole setup – from the design of the whole village, to individual bedrooms and dining areas – is built around “normalised” living. It aims to ease the adjustment of the residents, so that they don’t have to change everything about their lives.

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Fiona Kendall, General Manager of The Village explains that it allows them to continue to keep doing what they’ve always done.

“If you would normally walk out your front door and walk to church, it’s the same here – you can go out the front door, walk down and wander into an environment that is peaceful and quiet.”

“Same with your neighbours. If you were used to walking out the front door and going down the street, you can do that. You don’t have to walk through other people’s spaces to visit people”.

To encourage the life-like essence in the village, community groups are encouraged to use the facility. Mums and bubs, local tai chi group, youth dance classes are often seen around the Village.

“This is a real village,” says Fiona.

Residents are given the opportunity to feel the weather and the change of seasons. To see life around them , and participate if they choose to. It’s all about living “normal life” and “sono io” – This is me.
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