Memory Café provides an outlet for connection

Walker Methodist adds new resource for patients with memory loss and their families

CARAG — Small tables, cookies, conversation, soft music, sweet aromas and coffee are all elements of the new “memory café” at Walker Methodist.

The Southwest Minneapolis senior health center opened Pastime, a café-style gathering place for residents with memory loss and their loved ones, in July. With the café, Walker is adopting a concept that originated in Holland and is now being used for memory care around the world.

“This is just one more item in our toolbox of how we can support people who have dementia, or (who are) taking care of someone who has dementia, to be able to stay in the community and live as long as possible,” Shelli Bakken, director of support services at Walker Methodist, said.

Open to the public, the memory cafés will be held at 3:30 p.m. on the third Tuesday of each month. Walker’s café debuted July 19.

Walker is hosting the gatherings in its Walker Methodist Senior Club, located near the main entrance on Bryant Avenue.

The goal is for neighbors who are in the beginning stages of memory loss, or those who have a loved one living with Alzheimer’s or dementia, to gather at the café, relax, talk and connect.

Bakken said she hopes the memory café environment will be inviting and stress free.

“I love hanging out in a coffee shop and just the sense of community that comes from that — playing board games, hearing acoustic music, connecting with people. It’s something that appeals to me,” Bakken said. “If I had memory loss, it is something that I would hope to have. I want to give this to people.”

The café is intended to be more of a “social outlet” than a “typical support group,” she said.

“I’m excited to see it evolve into something where people that attend look forward to it on a monthly basis,” she said. “We expect the memory café to evolve based on the personalities of those who attend.”

Alzheimer’s Speaks founder Lori La Bey brought the memory café idea across the ocean from Holland, where it began. Alzheimer’s Speaks is an organization designed to help people understand the disease, communicate through it and connect with others.

“The biggest outcome of the memory café is the sense of community, sense of belonging that comes from the café,” La Bey said. “Most people with memory loss feel isolated and society pushes them away, so they tend to stay close to home.

“Family often doesn’t understand it. So the memory café is all about letting them be who they are.”

La Bey said other outcomes are empowerment and support.

“A lot of times, people don’t realize what kind of knowledge they have,” La Bey said. “The community brings meaning to the disease. It helps people realize that we can’t fix everything. It really makes you live in the moment and appreciate what you have.”

Walker Methodist’s Minneapolis Campus consists of their Health Center and Walker Methodist Place, located at 37th Avenue South and Bryant Avenue.

For more information on memory cafés, visit the Alzheimer’s Speaks’ website at alzheimersspeaks.com/memory-cafes.