Memory Cafes Bring Joy & Community to People Living with Dementia
Often a diagnosis of dementia means friends stop calling. As a result, people living with dementia can lose ties to their friends and their community. They retreat behind the walls of their homes, and becoming isolated. This happens just when social connection is needed most. As the Beatles sang, “we get by with a little help from our friends.” Attending a Memory Cafe is a great way for people with dementia and their family members to make new friends and remain connected to their community.
What are Memory Cafes?
A Memory Cafe is a social gathering for people living with dementia along with their family and friends. Cafes meet at a variety of places including coffeehouses, museums, community organizations or libraries. Guests “check their diagnosis at the door” and enjoy each other, a bite to eat and a fun activity. Most importantly, they have an opportunity to be with others having a shared experience and make new friends.
Some Memory Cafe guests may want to embrace a role of advocate by becoming a Dementia Friend to change the way people think, talk and act about dementia. A Dementia Friend may be willing to be interviewed by local newspapers, speak at conferences, and recommend restaurants, shops, and other organizations that have been trained to be Dementia Friendly.
A Key to Better Health
Numerous studies demonstrate that social relationships affect our physical and mental health. We are happier when we are connected. And we are more likely to be depressed when we are isolated. Research also indicates that we may prevent cognitive decline and delay the onset of Alzheimer’s Disease and other dementias if we keep mentally active and socially engaged. In a study of 2,249 California women published American Journal of Public Health, for instance, researchers reported that older women who maintained large social networks reduced their risk of dementia and delayed or prevented cognitive impairment.
In contrast, other studies have shown social isolation may worsen memory deficit associated with Alzheimers. While these studies are not conclusive regarding the progression of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, we do know that life today for someone living with dementia and their partners can be enriched by connecting with others.
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Building a Network of Memory Cafes in Connecticut
Get more information about Memory Cafes in Connecticut as well as other supports and services by the LiveWell Institute for people living with dementia.