France is building a village for people with dementia to live freely

France begins building its first ‘Alzheimer’s village’ where patients can live freely without medication in a medieval-style citadel that includes a library, gym and hairdressers

  • The village for dementia sufferers is being built in Dax in the south of France 
  • Up to 120 patients can live there alongside carers, volunteers and scientists  
  • The village costs the same as a typical nursing home, but will be less restrictive
  • Experts hope the project will allow residents to have more active, happier lives 

France is building a specially designed village to allow people with Alzheimer’s disease to continue living normal lives outside of a nursing home.

The new village will be built in Dax, in the southwest of France near the border with Spain.

People living in the village – who will be called residents instead of patients – will have their own supermarket, hairdresser, brasserie, gym, library and a farm.

The village will be enclosed for the residents’ safety but they will be able to wander round freely within its walls.

Nursing staff will be dressed in plain clothes and people will be given less medication, while volunteers will help to run the village. 

Its developers hope the €29 million (£25.5 million) village will allow people with Alzheimer’s and dementia to lead more active and happier lives.

The new village in Dax, France will allow patients with Alzheimer’s disease to wander freely around under the supervision of live-in carers in plain clothes

Residents of the new village will live in shared houses and everybody living there will have Alzheimer’s disease, which causes the majority of cases of dementia.

Alzheimer’s can cause people to become forgetful and have difficulty communicating and concentrating.  

The village will be built to look like the centre of a medieval walled town so it fits in with the region, The Telegraph reports, and it will be designed to help people’s walking, memory and sense of direction.

It will be large enough to hold 120 residents plus 100 care staff and 120 volunteers.



Dementia is an umbrella term used to describe a range of progressive neurological disorders, that is, conditions affecting the brain.

There are many different types of dementia, of which Alzheimer’s disease is the most common. 

Regardless of which type is diagnosed, each person will experience their dementia in their own unique way.

Dementia is a global concern but it is most often seen in wealthier countries, where people are likely to live into very old age.


The Alzheimer’s Society reports there are more than 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK today.

It is estimated that the number of people living with dementia in the UK by 2025 will rise to over 1 million.

In the US, it’s estimated there are 5.5 million sufferers. A similar percentage rise is expected in the coming years.

As a person’s age increases, so does the risk of them developing dementia.

Rates of diagnosis are improving but many people with dementia are thought to still be undiagnosed.


Currently there is no cure for dementia.

But new drugs can slow down its progression and the earlier it is spotted the more effective treatments are.

Source: Dementia UK 

‘We hope patients will be happier’ 

Françoise Diris, president of the France Alzheimer Landes association said: ‘We hope that the patients will be less constrained and anxious, happier. The same goes for the medical staff.

‘Families will also be more relaxed, and feel less guilty.’ 

The project is based on a similar village in Weesp in the Netherlands, and was begun by the late Henri Emmanuelli, a former local MP and French socialist.

In the Dutch model residents cannot leave the village but are free to wander round inside while being watched by staff in plain clothes. The staff say they care for residents rather than treating patients. 

Scientists will study residents 

Scientific researchers will live among the residents in France to compare life in the village to life in a traditional nursing home, to study whether it is better for the patients.

Experts say the village could help people maintain healthy social lives which may be difficult when living in a normal town or a nursing home.

The project has been compared to the movie The Truman Show, in which a character played by comedian Jim Carrey lives in a town which he does not know is make-believe, and he is unwittingly the star of a reality TV show. 

Government will fund the £25 million project

The government will fund the majority of the village, which will cost €29 million (£25.5 million) to build, €7 million (£6.1 million) to run and will charge residents €66 (£58) per day – reportedly about the same as a traditional nursing home.

It is intended that having dementia sufferers living together amongst carers will reduce their anxiety.

Day-to-day activities can become difficult for those with the degenerative brain disease because they may struggle to communicate or to organise themselves, and can forget where they are or what they are doing.

Symptoms of the condition tend to get worse over time and can make people physically disabled and eventually kill them as the brain fails.

Dementia is incurable and treatment is based on managing the symptoms.  

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