What is a Memory Cafe?

What is a Memory Cafe?

Memory Cafes are a fairly new movement to the Dementia Friendly Community.  These social initiatives were established around 2008 and some believe originated from the Netherlands. Currently, the Memory Cafe Directory has listed nearly 700 meeting spots throughout the world since the start of cataloging in 2016 (https://www.memorycafedirectory.com/). 

Memory Cafes are typically held in social settings such as restaurants, hospitals, libraries, schools, community centers, or faith-based organizations. Each Memory Cafe may have a different flow to the meeting; however, all have the same purpose of bringing those who are experiencing memory loss out into the community into a safe environment with their care partners to socialize and where all can connect on common ground. Additionally, an informal peer support system is typically developed as stories are shared through experiences while decreased isolation and potential early diagnosis may occur.

Because it is a social gathering for both caregivers and those persons with memory challenges, Memory Cafes are not officially identified as a support group and are not directed by medical professionals. However, trained volunteers, in collaboration with health professionals, coordinate the Memory Café. 

The Memory Cafe is not a referral opportunity but has a plethora of information available in the form of brochures and flyers of other opportunities to help support attendees in their journey. The goal is to provide a space for caregivers and individuals with memory challenges to gather, socialize and complete occasional activities together in a supportive and understanding environment.

The History of ELANCO Memory Cafe

The ELANCO Memory Cafe began as an idea in order to meet a need specific to the Eastern Lancaster County region. In late February of 2017, a group of business and faith-based leaders, in addition to community members, began meeting to form the  ELANCO Dementia Friendly Community (DFC) Committee. Originally, the initiative was focused towards meeting the guidelines of Dementia Friendly America, but has recently been adapted for use in the ELANCO DFC initiative. Over time, about half of the original committee members continue to serve with DFC and additional members have come on board with expertise and energy that has extended DFC into the community in a significant way. The DFC from the beginning has been supported by Garden Spot Village administration and has had good representation within the ELANCO community.

The ELANCO Memory Cafe Subcommittee held its first meeting in March of 2019 with members from Garden Spot Village (GSV) leadership, a GSV resident with a personal encounter of a loved one with dementia, and an ELANCO community member who worked for Ephrata Community Hospital as a nurse with a speciality and passion for gerontology. 

After numerous planning meetings, which were based off of research and previous Memory Cafe models, meeting locations were established, guidelines were written, and momentum accumulated as the launch of the first Memory Cafe took place on July 10th, 2019.

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