An innovative dementia and aged care village in Ngongotahā has celebrated its first birthday, marking the occasion with cake and punch.
The Care Village was built to replicate a small-scale New Zealand town.
It has been designed to allow people with dementia to live as normal a life as possibly by living in shared households, thus creating a foundation of independence, home and community, with professional support and carers nearby.
Chief executive Therese Jeffs said she still had complete confidence in the pioneering model of care.
"The Care Village was built on the belief that there had to be a better way of delivering aged care in New Zealand, one which not only preserved the lifestyles of those needing care, but also challenged traditional institutional practices in the wider industry.
"A year down the track and I know we're doing the right thing. Every day something happens where you can't help but think, 'wow, that's amazing'. We're still on a journey, but that's all just part of blazing the trail."
Every day is a celebration in House Four, Camellia Lane, with the six residents who call it home baking or knitting, visitors popping in and out, and planned activities taking place – bingo, singing, even happy hour.
Julia Freeman, daughter of House Four residents Dolly and Bruce Atkins, said she had noticed a real change in her parents.
"I can see they're much more relaxed, up-beat, happy and independent in this environment. Mum participates in so many more activities than she used to, rather than staying in her room all day, and dad is constantly moving about.
"It's often a big worry for families as their parents age, what life will be like for them. This model of care means no one is left feeling lonely or isolated because they're surrounded by people and activity in a space that's all their own.
"Living in a comfortable home environment, based on lifestyles, has a huge impact on emotional wellbeing. Everyone in the house helps out by doing simple, everyday things like preparing vegetables for meals, ironing or cooking."
Even the village cat Socks is more comfortable in his new abode. Notoriously unsociable in his previous home, he is now happy to sleep on couches or even residents' laps.
The Care Village is the first of its kind to be built in the world outside of Holland. The concept of giving people with dementia the opportunity to go about their normal lives is based on the renowned Dutch dementia village, De Hogeweyk.
The Care Village also hosted special visitors this week, with an Australian documentary filmmaker, Elizabeth McLeish, stopping by as she films the extraordinary journey of dementia sufferer, Greg Kelly, who is travelling the length and breadth of New Zealand on his Harley Davidson to raise dementia awareness.
Having already toured Australia, the aim of Kell's New Zealand Ride for the Future is to help put the spotlight on dementia and encourage funding towards medical research.
About The CARE Village
The Care Village is a community-owned, not-for-profit facility governed by Rotorua Continuing Care Trust (a registered charity).
The model of care is based on creating and conserving lifestyle, independence and most importantly, community. Each of the 13 single-level six and seven bedroom households looks and functions like a typical home, each with its own kitchen, dining room and laundry.
Its vision is to create a lifestyle that gives people with dementia as normal a life as possible and provides an opportunity for them to not only exist, but thrive.
Familiarity, comfort and a stimulating environment have the greatest impact on overall health, happiness and wellbeing.