We all seek safety in our lives, whether it’s job security or a safe grab bar in the bathroom – and of course everything else in between. One such safe environment for individuals living with dementia and those who care for them is a Memory Cafe. Memory Cafes offer safe and comfortable dementia friendly outings.
What is a Memory Cafe?
A Memory Cafe is any sort of event or outing designed to be dementia friendly. Why is that important? It is an unfortunate reality that many people living with dementia have unpleasant experiences with going about their normal lives. Often, they are misunderstood, judged, and the target of a wrongly placed stigma.
Memory Cafe is a wonderfully welcoming place for individuals with Alzheimer’s Disease or any other form of dementia, as well as other forms of cognitive impairment. This “no judgement zone” is a great opportunity to interact with others in a safe and friendly environment.
There are as any different types of Memory Cafe as there are… well… Memory Cafes! Each one is a bit different, based on the personalities and backgrounds of the facilitators and the participants. Some are activities-based, while others focus on education. You might have one enjoying the connections of demographic-appropriate music and dancing. Others might focus on crafts and painting. Some simply guide the participants in exercises that foster reminiscing.
There truly is something for everyone!
Not Respite Care
While a Memory Cafe is beneficial for those living with dementia, it is also beneficial for their caregivers as well. It is not a place to “drop off” your loved one for a while, but a way to enjoy activities with them as a break from the normal routine that you share.
A Memory Cafe is a safe and comfortable space where caregivers and their loved ones can socialize, listen to music, play games, and enjoy other appropriate activities. They provide mutual support and exchange information. This by itself is valuable if for nothing more than to obtain information about additional resources.
The Memory Cafe’s Roots
With roots in the Netherlands, Dr. Bere Miesen, a Dutch psychiatrist introduced the Memory Cafe concept in 1997 as a way to break through the stigma associated with various forms of Dementia. It simply “wasn’t discussed” and those living with the disease – and their caregivers – were suffering as a result.
The concept spread throughout Europe, to Ireland and England, Australia and eventually to the United States. As the Memory Cafe concept evolved, it grew into a very open culture, including more than just those living with various forms of Dementia.
Memory Cafes Today
New Memory Cafes, with a diverse collection of focus areas, continue to open across the country – and around the world – as a natural response to a growing health concern. However, that growth nearly stopped, and has evolved significantly, once we entered the COVID era.
MemoryCafeDirectory.com had over 900 Memory Cafe listings in 5 countries when COVID restrictions took place. Now late in 2020, some “in-person” Memory Cafes have started to very carefully test the water for resuming operations. Time will tell if their effort is successful.
Memory Cafes Today – And in the Future
One very encouraging development that came out of the COVID challenges has been the move to an online “virtual” Memory Cafe format. Just as many businesses around the world have moved meetings online, the Zoom platform is a favorite of Memory Cafe operators. It’s easy to both set up and to use.
With this move to an online format, geographic boundaries no longer are in play. In fact, the “COUNTRY/STATE/CITY” format in use on the rest of the site doesn’t pertain to the online format. To accommodate a “scheduled” instead of a “zip code” MemoryCafeDirectory.com now uses a calendar format in a new section called Cafe Connect.
Cafe Connect allows those seeking an online experience to select the day and time that works for them, read about that gathering, contact the organizer, and get registered – all from the safety and comfort of their own home.
Safety and Comfort
The move to online Memory Cafes started with the demands placed on society by COVID. Staying engaged in appropriate activities by individuals living with dementia is important, but of course, staying safe is critical. What better way to stay safe, than in the comfort of home?
While COVID caused it to start, many believe the virtual Memory Cafe will live on well after COVID is behind us. This new tool has allowed many to stay engaged easily. Social isolation is a significant problem in the senior community, and is often exacerbated for those in the dementia community.
Anyone who aligns with the Age Safe America mission will quickly see the value Memory Cafes – and virtual Memory Cafes – hold for our dementia friends. Keeping our loved ones safe and comfortable is a mission for all of us.
About the Author
Dave Wiederrich is the founder of JADCOM Media LLC, (JADCOMMedia.com) an online publishing and marketing company. One of JADCOM Media’s web properties is MemoryCafeDirectory.com. With over 900 Memory Cafes in 5 countries, and with over 75 virtual Memory Cafe listings, the site draws thousands of visitor monthly, seeking valuable caregiving resources. It also offers Memory Joggers (a free, fun recall exercise) and the Guest Author program to allow dementia authors to share the backstory behind their books.
You can contact Dave at info@MemoryCafeDirectory.com. Follow Memory Cafe Directory on social media: