Construction has just begun on a special B.C. community for people with dementia, but there’s already “tremendous interest” from potential residents and those who want to work there, according to the project leader.

The community in Langley, B.C., called The Village, is designed to care for dementia patients while also giving them a sense of normalcy and freedom, said Elroy Jespersen, the vice-president of special projects at Verve Senior Living.

With an estimated completion date of April, 2019, The Village will include six bungalow-style cottages with several bedrooms and shared common areas. The community will also feature a fish pond, a garden, and a community centre that will serve as the town square, complete with a coffee shop and beauty salon.

The Village will house 78 people with dementia and will be able to accommodate some couples who can stay together in one bedroom.  Specially trained staff will be hired to care for the residents.

The idea, Jespersen told, is to make dementia patients feel independent and comfortable without “running into a locked door.” A perimeter fence will keep the residents safe.

“We believe that it’s really important for people to be connected to nature and life and the outdoors,” Jespersen said Thursday, a day after construction crews broke ground on the rural site.

The project is privately funded. At this point, residing at The Village could cost around $6,000 to $7,000 per month, and Jespersen acknowledged that’s not affordable for many seniors or their families.

However, he said he expects seniors who sell their homes in the Vancouver area before coming to The Village will be able to afford the cost of living there.

Jespersen said the company is open to welcoming government funding in the future, if it becomes available, to make The Village more affordable.

The Village was partly inspired by Hogeweyk in the Netherlands, believed to be the world’s first “dementia village.”

While similar communities already exist or are under construction in Canada, Jesperson said he believes The Village will be a first of its kind in the country, based on the size of the property and the security features on site.

According to the Alzheimer Society of Canada, an estimated 564,000 Canadians currently live with dementia and that number is expected to rise to 937,000 in 15 years.