There’s no knowing when time will suddenly seem to bust open. I was exiting a bathroom at my beloved Be Well Bakery & Cafe. Instead of gathering up my things to leave, something made me pause, something on a bulletin board I’ve seen dozens of times over the past six weeks but which THIS time caught my eye. What was it that demanded my attention? Well, I’ll be….
In the crack of a moment, time did cartwheels – cartwheels & flips set to fireworks. There, out-dated yet still riveting, was a flier. A flier for a 12/20/17 “Talk & Taste” event at Artis Senior Living / Huntingdon Valley. A Memory Cafe.
Instantly, it was early summer 2014. I was in Washington, D.C. for my first National Center for Creative Aging (NCCA) Leadership Exchange & Conference. Honestly, I was feeling pretty ballsy, since I didn’t yet consider myself an actual artist, my creativity was limited to leading olders elders ancients astray to fun places & I hadn’t a clue what I’d say to anyone. In spite of that, I went.
The first event I attended, waaaaay up in Tenleytown, was at the home of the NCCA, IONA Senior Services. It was something few of us had ever heard of before – a Memory Cafe. From barely known to something offered in my own back yard. It felt like I went from NW DC to HV PA in the blink of an eye.
Seeing that flier – wildly outdated, since it happened on 12/20/17 – felt like the universe collapsed & expanded, all at the same time.
As the flier describes, a Memory Cafe is a place where people dealing with forgetfulness or other cognitive challenges can kick back with friends & family. They’re “pop ups,” meeting in different places – perhaps a cafe like Be Well, a museum or a community center. Topics are equally diverse – the folks at Artis Senior Living/HV take care that no two Memory Cafes are the same; speakers, often artists, could lead a discussion about memory changes, provide engaging entertainment, or just offer a time & place to relax, socialize. THE great constant is their primary goal – – to help guests feel connected, to reduce the sense of isolation that often partners with cognitive difficulties.
Memory Cafes are designed as places where people with memory difficulties leave limitations outside the room. Some are activities-based, others focus on learning something new. One cafe could provide swing music & dancing, while another provides crafts & artwork or a discussion on memory loss. Most focus on topics likely to nudge guests to remember & reminisce about days gone by – a Memory Cafe this past fall at IONA Senior Services featured a singing & piano quartet presenting “Moon River: The Music of Mancini & Mercer.” Imagine the shared memories it triggered – Audrey Hepburn & The Pink Panther! Those memories, the discussion, the shared moments form internal & external connections that carry social emotional medical benefits.
As I learned back in 2014, Memory Cafes benefit more than the person with cognitive difficulties. Care partners, who are welcomed as guests, get to see a different side of the person/loved one in their care.
The good news is that hundreds of Memory Cafes, like the one at Artis Senior Living/HV, happen across the USA. The bad news is that resources for putting them on are limited, while the need is growing. It’s one of the many ways that Europe – where the idea of Memory Cafes began (Denmark, naturally) – puts us to shame when it comes to providing compassionate, effective, dare I say humane elder care.
Time collapsed today for me, looking at a bulletin board at Be Well. Memory Cafes can do that very same thing for the men & women who are blessed to attend one. Bravo, Artis Senior Living/HV for last month’s Memory Cafe. God bless & may you give many more!