Hearst Reports: "The Village at Waveny Exemplifies the Future of Assisted Living"
Posted on September 9, 2018
Imagine a movie set of a classic American town designed with a different purpose: to engage aging members of our society. To create such an environment, every feature, from the clock tower in the town square to the curve of its “Main Street,” would be carefully studied and placed just so with therapeutic intentions in mind. For someone with a family member dealing with Alzheimer’s or dementia, this may sound too good to be true, but when you visit The Village at Waveny in New Canaan, this is exactly what you will find, with one critical exception: this assisted living village is very real, and so are the residents who live there.
In fact, the entire Village is designed to resemble New Canaan’s downtown in the 1950s, a time when many of Waveny’s assisted living residents and adult day program participants were young adults. This version of Main Street extends 175 feet, with a gentle curvature that encourages folks to walk and see what’s “just around the bend.” An overhead skylight spans its entire length, to bring in natural light free of glare or shadows. To avoid disorientation, doors at both ends of Main Street open to looping paths surrounded by memory gardens, calling to mind strolls that residents have taken their entire lives.
Every detail has been carefully considered. For example, the colors of the buildings and storefronts are intended to stimulate and evoke memories. “Color is a huge part of therapeutic design,” confirms Consiglio. “People with memory loss respond better to concentrated colors. Whether on the awnings or as lines of demarcation between the walls and floor, we’ve made sure the colors are bold and distinct.”
Of course, most main streets don’t feature a grand piano or rearrangeable seating for music programs, activities and presentations. Nor do most senior care centers integrate assisted living residents and day program participants as intentionally as The Village does. Residents, short-term respite guests and day program participants begin each day together here, often forming special bonds while sharing a jigsaw puzzle or meeting at the same park bench. Main Street is large enough to accommodate a variety of choices for activities, so while some residents are cooking as a group in the bakery, others may attend a weekly discussion of current events or spend time one-on-one with a volunteer or friend.
Like New Canaan’s downtown of yesteryear, Main Street serves as the hub of the Village community. Residents spend the day here, which encourages social interaction outside of their personal living space. Lunch is served in The Village’s Piazza, which means that residents often spend from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the company of others, a vital difference from many assisted living facilities, where residents can sometimes feel isolated during the day.
This integration serves another purpose as well. There is an established sense of belonging when an adult day program participant checks in for respite care. Their time at The Village feels more like a short-term stay with friends, rather than a foreign experience.
“This is the only place I know of that offers a connection between adult day program participants and assisted living residents,” says Ms. Consiglio. “It’s such a careful blend of everything. It’s beautiful to witness everyone so comfortable with who they are and where they are at this time in their lives. We give them the freedom to just be, and that means everything.”
The unique nature of The Village lends itself to being able to care for people at varied stages of memory loss in different, personalized ways. Those who like to roam can walk for miles and never encounter a dead end; the cobblestone carpets at the end of Main Street lead through open doors into intentionally planted gardens, which have been found to enhance memory. Claire’s Garden goes one step further, serving as an “active garden.” Residents plant vegetables, herbs and seasonal flowers, specifically annuals that provide olfactory stimulation—a key component of memory.
Claire’s Garden is but one example of the “living” environment at Waveny’s Village. Consider the striped barber pole, for example. Though this Main Street icon may suggest whimsical nostalgia, the barber pole in fact fronts a full-service salon and barbershop. Residents and adult day program participants enjoy hair and nail appointments exactly as they have all of their adult lives. What separates this salon from most is that its sinks can be adjusted for maximum comfort, making the services accessible to more individuals, including those in wheelchairs.
The ice cream parlor, Scoops, is another social hub, just as it was for generations on Main Street, USA. Baking takes place regularly, and responsibilities—from measuring and mixing to simply smelling or tasting—are assigned so that individuals can actively join in at different levels of participation. Scoops also serves as a fun go-to destination when grandchildren arrive for a visit. The general store remains popular for “purchasing” small goods (no actual currency is exchanged). Window shopping and browsing are two more time-honored traditions that also encourage memory exercise.
“There are no facades here,” concludes Ms. Consiglio. “Beyond being beautiful, everything you see on Main Street is real and serves a purpose. We’ve toured people from more than ten different countries who are specialists in their fields concerning the aged. They all agree that our design is revolutionary and unlike anything they’ve ever seen. But when it comes down to it, at the most basic level, The Village is a happy place.”
We all want our family members and loved ones to feel comfortable and safe as they age. We also understand the importance of social engagement and intellectual stimulation, especially for those who suffer from debilitating dementia. Here, Fairfield County residents are fortunate to have the opportunity to watch their parents and grandparents continue as engaged members of their community. When you visit Waveny’s Village, you experience what the future of assisted living can and should be.