Study visit Belgium

The first transnational meeting of WeDO2 took place from 5 to 7 November 2013 in Brussels. On 6 November, partners from Belgium (Wallonia and Flanders), Germany, Greece, Austria, Poland and Age Platform Europe visited the “Domaine des Rièzes et Sarts”.

This senior citizen’s home is located in a small village next to the French border, 10 km away from Couvin. In this wooden and calm area, the Domaine can host up to 70 people, men and women, in perfect shape or with health problems, lacking autonomy or disoriented. The Domaine des Rièzes et Sarts oozes a human, warm atmosphere.

Humanist and lay values

The values and functioning of this Domaine are adapted as much as possible to the needs and wishes of the residents, which means:

  • Consider the routines of their previous life
  • Maintain their aptitudes as much as possible in collaboration with them
  • Offer them an actual room for freedom
  • Respect the right to express their will on the subjects concerning them
  • Give them the chance to enjoy a social, cultural and spiritual life
  • The opportunity to share their skills and interests

To achieve these goals, the Domaine’s staff guarantees values such as respect of autonomy, citizenship and freedom of the residents. Autonomy goes beyond the concept of ‘being able to do this or that’, encompassing the concept that an elderly adult living in a retirement home knows better what is right or wrong for him/her, decides on what he/she is going to live, eat, drink, do or not do, etc.
In line with the respect for these values, everyone collaborate to develop a flexible and adaptable organization, in an ‘ask and learn’ attitude. This also goes for the professionals, always evaluating the ultimate goal for every action, and not acting if there is none.

Another key policy is that residents in a confused status are never physically restrained, confined to an armchair or restricted to a determined area. They live with the others, they can go outdoors and walking freely is encouraged. This choice entails risk evaluation: at the Domaine it is considered that life goes hand in hand with risk, and there is no worse than refusing to take any. To allow residents to take risks is to recognize their right to actually be alive.
These diverse elements in place spontaneously triggered an important solidarity between residents. This spirit became a cornerstone of this special project, and the ‘strongest’ residents found via these actions a new meaning for their lives: to offer time and attention to the ‘frail’ ones.
And so are accompanied the ‘old persons’ who live at the Domaine: free, citizens, with dignity, respected and standing tall… until the end.  

A real place to live

At the Domaine, the motto is mutual respect.  Residents naturally find respect for their dignity and freedom, on top of attention, company and blossoming. In case of need, they get adequate health care and assistance.

Small steps towards an increased wellbeing

Daily life is organized and tailored to the pace and preferences of everyone. This includes as well timing of the bath or clothes selection. This also considers respect when addressing to the residents, respect of privacy and personal space (the Domaine’s personnel always knock the door before entering), the right to autonomy and a full affective and sexual life between consenting adults.
A healthy, balanced…and plentiful diet, to rediscover the pleasure to eat. Company pets are accepted.
Regarding health, residents have the right to choose their physician or physiotherapist from outside the Domaine’s team. They also have the freedom to choose the line around their healthcare and their approach to end of life considerations.

A window towards the outside world

The Domaine des Rièzes et Sarts is located in an immense forest of 12 acres. It was previously a structure devoted to social tourism, and has inherited its related infrastructure: indoor swimming pool, tennis courts, playground, mini golf, petanque…so many opportunities at disposal of residents and their relatives of all generations.

The Domaine sees itself as a place for gathering, opened to its region, where young and old get together with an open mind and tolerance.


The Domaine is a senior citizen’s home with a strong focus on humanity and warm-heartedness. The core idea is mutual respect and autonomy of the resident. Mr. Dominique Bigneron (director of Domaine) illustrated this by several stories and anecdotes during the study visit. At the end, the partners concluded that this was best practice around wellbeing and dignity of elderly older people and showed how a rest home could be organized around values like mutual respect, liberty and dignity.

Contact persons:

  • Mara Barreto, Project manager at Espace Seniors.

Espace Seniors is a partner association of Solidaris- Mutualité Socialiste. Senior area: information and training, participation and commitment, support and defend of the rights of seniors. This Belgium non-profit association is involved both in WeDO2 and in the national coalition. 

  • Domaine des Rièzes et Sarts - Rest Home - Director : Mr. Dominique Bigneron

Adresse : Chaussée de l'Europe 124 -5560- Cul-des-Sarts (Couvin)
Email :


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