For people with dementia, and their caretakers, life can be lonely. Lapsed memory, confusion, emotional instability … these are just some of the challenges dementia presents. Decreasing self-awareness and social skills also make socialization tough.
But getting together with other people who understand these struggles can be a powerful way for both caregivers and those diagnosed with dementia to enjoy themselves.
That’s why Memory Cafes are so wonderful. A Memory Cafe is a gathering of people who have dementia or care for someone who does. At these get-togethers, people can socialize with others who understand the challenges the illness often brings. They don’t have to feel judged or embarrassed about how they relate to others. And, they may participate in enriching activities such as art projects, dancing, lectures or crafts.
Many Memory Cafes take place in public or social settings. Coffee shops, parks, museums and restaurants are common locations. Sometimes, local businesses sponsor Memory Cafes, helping participants stay connected to the larger community.
The events provide more than just stress relief and interaction. By all accounts, they are good for mental health, too. In recent years, researchers have been investigating isolation and loneliness as possible contributors to dementia. It is well-established that social isolation can feed depression. Many people with dementia suffer from depression already.
A Dutch psychiatrist started Memory Cafes the Netherlands in 1997. Since then, the idea has really taken off. There are more than 700 cafes in the United States. Look online, there may be one near you.