Hebrew SeniorLife Memory Café Expands to Boston-area Residents
Working with local institutions to grow the memory café experience
When Alzheimer’s disease becomes part of a marriage, or a family, caregivers can usually find resources to support the member facing memory loss or to support the family caregiver seeking peer connections and information. Yet, until the last few years, there wasn’t much designed to support the evolving spousal or parent/child relationship itself. All that changed with the advent of the “Memory Café” concept in the Netherlands, a unique model of social programming designed as a welcoming place for caregivers and their loved ones with memory loss to relax together in a stigma-free environment that offers both socialization and support.
In 2014, NewBridge on the Charles began a monthly Memory Café program within our continuing care retirement community that focused mostly on our independent living members who were experiencing some kind of cognitive impairment. For these residents of our community, accessing the full array of community life at NewBridge had become complicated by dementia, yet participating in our day program or moving to our Memory Care Assisted Living residences were not yet the best options.
“We really saw an unmet need, and an opportunity for those facing memory challenges to enjoy programming in a stigma-free space,” said Janet Gottler, who as community care advisor at NewBridge helped launch the program on campus.
Our “Café Connect,” as it was named, offered an afternoon of music, art or other entertainment, always in an interactive way with sweet refreshments to boot. The program blossomed, and grew to include more participants as well as the involvement of other community members who became boosters and volunteers.
In the meantime, Memory Cafés have grown in the Boston-area, learning best practices from each other with the help of Jewish Family & Children’s Services “Percolator” Network. Taking place in libraries, senior centers, and places of worship, each Memory Café has its own unique feel. Ours for example, has been greatly enhanced by the NewBridge emphasis on the importance of multigenerational interaction, frequently incorporating the involvement of area high school students who add energy and interest to every program.
In early 2016, Café Connect opened its doors to the broader community so that non-resident individuals who would benefit could now attend. So far, the response has been strong – not only from families in the area, but from other nonprofits looking to start their own Memory Cafés.
We’ve also begun collaborations with local community institutions to sponsor and support their memory cafes as well. For example, Memory Care Assisted Living at NewBridge on the Charles has partnered with Temple Emanuel in Newton to launch the only synagogue-based Memory Café in Massachusetts. Initiatives like these help us create stronger relationships with the broader community.
At NewBridge on the Charles in Dedham, MA, our memory care assisted living community was designed to address the needs of those with early- and mid-stage Alzheimer's disease or dementia.