What is a Memory Cafe?

A Memory Cafe is a wonderfully welcoming place for individuals with Alzheimer’s or any type of the dementias or other brain disorders. Additionally, it is helpful for people with all forms of mild cognitive impairment.

Individual Memory Cafes focus on different aspects for a unique experience. You may find 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.

Not Respite Care

While a Memory Cafe is beneficial to those affected, it is also beneficial for their care partners as well. It is not a place to “drop off” your loved one for a while, but a way to enjoy actives with them as a break from the normal routine.  A Memory Cafe is a safe and comfortable space where care partners and their loved ones can socialize, listen to music, play games, and enjoy other appropriate activities. They provide mutual support and exchange information.  They can simply enjoy the company of those with similar things in common.

Activities are varied, but tend to focus on topics that are apt to cause one to reminisce about times gone by. That “connection” to the past can be as comforting as it is medically beneficial.  Emphasis is often placed on activities where humor can be a central part of the enjoyment.

You may find refreshments offered, or you may be a part of a pot-luck style gathering. In most cases, you’ll be able to obtain valuable resources from local support organizations to help you in your experience.  Mostly, a Memory Cafe is meant to make connections with those who are being challenged in a similar manner as you and your loved one.

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 with the disease – and their care partners – 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 here, it grew into a very open culture, including more than just those living with various forms of Dementia.

Many programs have been created in recent years for individuals living with all kinds of cognitive impairment. While Alzheimer’s is the most common, individuals with all forms of Dementia, along with those surviving a stroke or traumatic brain injury, can benefit from the safe, welcoming and mentally stimulating environments of Memory Cafes. There really is something for everyone.

While the ambiance of a location can certainly add a unique element to the experience, simple spaces can be very effective as well. It is as much a function of the participants and facilitators, as it is the physical space.

You can choose to visit more than one!  When regional Cafe operators vary their schedules, you are able to attend several of them on a rotating basis. Local ones to check out are: 

  • Spooner – Nick’s Family Restaurant, 122 Vine St., 2nd Tuesday of each month, 9:30-11:00 a.m.
  • Rice Lake -- Moose Club, 40 E. Newton St., 3rd Wednesday of each month, 9:30-11:00 a.m.
  • Barron – Rolling Oaks Restaurant, 3rd Thursday of each month, 1:30-3:00 p.m.
  • Ladysmith – Toad House, 711 Lake Ave., 3rd Tuesday of each month, 9:30 -11:00 a.m.
  • Hayward – Sherman & Ruth Weiss Community Library, 10788 WI Hwy 27, 2nd Tuesday of each month
  • Amery – Amery Area Community Center, 608 Harriman Ave. S, 3rd Thursday of each month, 1:00-2:30 p.m.

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