Rise of the Dementia Cafe

Alissa Sauer
By Alissa SauerMarch 30, 2016

Alzheimer’s cafes are beginning to pop up, giving people living with the disease, and their caregivers, a place to go where people understand dementia and its symptoms, that can manifest itself in ways that can be socially unacceptable.

Learn more about these cafes and the growing movement to involve people living with dementia in everyday community events.

The Dementia Cafe Strives to Fulfill an Unmet Need

A new type of group combines support groups for people living with Alzheimer’s disease and support groups for caregivers of people with Alzheimer’s in a cafe setting. These dementia cafes are filling an “unmet need” according to Felicia Greenfield, director of clinical research operations at the Penn Memory Center in Philadelphia.

Some people with Alzheimer’s demonstrate behaviors that can make social settings uncomfortable or impossible, leaving caregivers to feel isolated at home, especially if respite care is not a possibility or family lives far away. The Penn Memory Center has opened a monthly Alzheimer’s cafe for people living with the disease and their caregivers to get out, socialize with others and find support and fellowship with others going through similar trials where others won’t be put off by any behavior that violates social norms.

Currently, the cafe operates for 90 minutes each month out of the Penn Memory Center, but Greenfield is optimistic that this idea could be expanded across the country.

Joining the Movement to Destigmatize Dementia

Alzheimer’s cafe’s were first organized in the Netherlands in 1997 and began in the United States in 2008. The cafes are part of a larger movement to destigmatize Alzheimer’s and dementia, giving people living with the disease purpose and a sense of belonging in the larger community.

Momentia Seattle is an advocacy group where people with dementia are empowered through community involvement in dementia friendly activities. From urban farming programs to art gallery tours and volunteering, Momentia Seattle strives to provide people with dementia meaningful and purposeful activities.

They summarize their movement as a collective effort to essentially rewrite what dementia is, exchanging a story of “fear, isolation, despair, futility and loss: for one of “hope, connection, growth, purpose and courage.”

Have you or a loved one participated in any community activities to encourage belonging and purpose while fighting the stereotypes associated with dementia?

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Alissa Sauer

Alissa Sauer

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