New video shares vision for world’s first bush-inspired dementia village

After almost seven years creating a strong case for the development of the world’s first bush inspired dementia village, Advance Heathcote Incorporated is making strides towards making this vision a reality.

Advance Heathcote Incorporated secretary Sandra Slatter, who has called the Central Victorian community home for more than 30 years, said the biggest challenge when speaking about the idea to external stakeholders was answering the question “why Heathcote for a dementia village?”

However, thanks to a new animated video (below), which was created by one of Australia’s leading seniors living architects at ThomsonAdsett, Sandra says the question is now more “Why not Heathcote?” when speaking with operators and investors.

Animated video presents the vision for the ‘bush inspired dementia village’.

“We’ve been working with our panel of expert advisors and key stakeholders towards the establishment of a dementia village for Heathcote since 2014 when Bendigo Council first asked us for feedback for the future of our town,” Sandra said. “From there a steering group was set up, which received state government funding so we could undertake a feasibility study and develop proof of concept.

“The feasibility study, completed by Bridge Advisory Group, proved the concept was perfect for the area.”

The group have earmarked a 17-acre parcel of land adjacent to Heathcote Health for the project which aims to provide compassionate community care for people in all stages of their journey with dementia.

The proposed site has been named Gilbruk Place, meaning place of respect in the language of the land’s traditional owners, the Taungurung people.

Gilbruk Place will be a phased development, eventually home to a 150-bed facility, supported by Heathcote Health, which will accommodate assisted living through to palliative care. The village will incorporate a supermarket, hairdresser, café, library, lake, green spaces and a farm nursery. Adjacent to the site will be a community garden, dog park, the O’Keefe Rail Trail and a men’s shed.

Advance Heathcote is preparing for a virtual research and innovation hub and working on plans for a dementia-friendly display home, showcasing innovations and new technology to support people with dementia to remain in their own homes.

Simon Drysdale, Group Director of ThomsonAdsett’s Seniors Living team, who is working with Advance Heathcote said the concept of a dementia village integrated into the wider town promoted incredible social interaction and compassionate community care. 

“Working with committee members, the project has now become both inward and outward focused resulting in a precinct rather than an isolated and singular facility,” Simon said.

“To lightly touch the delivery of person-centered care is to mitigate a clinical definition with a celebration of self and the uniqueness of each. This is a core characteristic value of bush-centered community care that this project aspires to showcase.”

Simon said Gilbruk Place would be built for and by the community.

“From a governance and value position this becomes a true display of community engagement and connectedness enabled through the care outcome and the commissioning of built form,” he said.

“The potential is this Central Victorian initiative becomes equally vital to Heathcote and surrounds. Here the theme ‘regeneration’ isn’t restricted to fire, drought and the perils of climate change but also to the residents’ quality of life.”

Sandra said Heathcote’s local businesses had undergone an audit – by Bendigo City – to determine if they were dementia friendly.

“If they aren’t, they have worked hard to change that to be able to provide the support required for a future dementia village,” Sandra said.

“We have also worked with Bendigo Council on the future township plan to ensure all new infrastructure is dementia friendly, such as our outdoor settings. We have undertaken, as a community, a lot of education and awareness over the past years to ensure our community was ready for the development of a dementia village at Heathcote.

“We’ve always known Heathcote was an ideal location for an innovative dementia village, however, in the past we were always asked why Heathcote for a dementia village.

“It’s in our opinion the question should now be “Why not Heathcote?” however this aspirational video really makes that a reality and helps us with conversations with governments and investors.

“We’ve got the green space, the ageing community, a community which is educated, aware and supportive.

“I’m really proud of this video. It helps us to properly articulate what we are proposing to do.”


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