VICTORIA -- Plans for an upcoming “dementia village” on Vancouver Island, which is believed to be the first-of-its-kind publicly funded facility in Canada, could include permanent live-in pets.

The dementia village, which is scheduled to begin construction next year, is a unique community facility which will feature self-contained homes for groups of residents.

People living in the village will also be able to freely access amenities like a bistro, art studio, community garden and chapel.

According to developers of the facility, live-in pets and support animals may be an addition to the dementia village.

Currently, therapy animals are being used at the Views, a long-term care home in Comox which is slated to be replaced by the dementia village.

The animals are a big hit among residents, especially amid the COVID-19 pandemic, as seniors homes are largely isolated due to provincial health measures.

“We’re very proud of our staff who really are key to supporting having the pets and they do that because they see how beneficial they are to the residents,” said Jane Murphy, president and CEO of Providence Living, on July 14.

“They’re feeling very lonely, they’re feeling disconnected and pets can provide that companionship and that consistency, especially a resident pet,” added Dr. Harpreet Chauhan, Providence Health Care geriatric psychiatrist.

Now, Providence Living, the organization developing the dementia village, is considering adding optional pets to the upcoming care facility.

Providence says that they are considering letting village households decide whether they would like to keep animal companions.

“Those residents will decide, in regard to their living space, if they might want a pet and what type,” said Murphy. “So in the future we may well see more pets as a result of the dementia village.”

Residents of the dementia village will live in households with individual bedrooms and personal bathrooms, as well as communal areas.

Currently, dogs, cats, birds and fish visit the Views in Comox, with some of the animals being permanent residents of the building.

The upcoming dementia village, which will include 156 permanent beds, is expected to begin construction in spring or summer 2021