For the last several years, eldercare has continued its growth as a very dynamic and exciting field. New advances in technology, organizations, and new concepts of how to best serve our elderly clients are coming at a rapid pace. But every once in a while a new, innovative and exciting opportunity created by organizations that both serve and engage our aging population in King County just stands out.

I recently became aware of an organization called Momentia. In their own words, Momentia Seattle is a grassroots movement empowering people with memory loss and their loved ones to remain connected and active in the community. For too long, a diagnosis has meant fear, shame, isolation, loss of purpose and despair. But there’s a new dementia story being told. It’s being told by persons living with dementia who are rising up to say, ‘we’re still here!’ It’s being told throughout our parks, theaters, libraries, museums and cafes – as our vibrant public spaces become venues for an exponentially expanding number of “dementia-friendly” opportunities like walking groups at the zoo, art gallery tours, and gardening volunteer programs.

So much has changed in the way we look at and work with those living with dementia. We’ve learned that music can be used to unlock memories; creativity can be encouraged through painting and drawing; stories can be brought to the surface when trained facilitators work with groups and individuals using photos to prompt recollections.

Now Momentia has become a kind of clearing house through which people can find, or spread the word about programs taking place at public venues like museums, art galleries, and theaters that provide “social and creative engagement opportunities for persons living with dementia…”

Momentia is like an open-source movement that invites all those interested to use their “passions, skills and interests” to develop and share new dementia specific programming. Some programs on their calendar have been around for several years such as the here: now Arts Engagement program at the Frye Art Museum and the Early Stage Memory Loss Zoo Walks at Point Defiance in Tacoma and at the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle. But in looking through the Momentia website I came across a new idea that is just brilliant in its simplicity. This is called Alzheimer’s Cafes.

Alzheimer’s Cafes are drop-in (no registration required) and free (other than the food or drink a person may purchase). Local restaurants and coffee shops offer and host the gatherings, typically once or twice a month for a 2 hour period.  There’s no set agenda. It is simply meant to be a positive social experience for persons with early to late stage dementia, caregivers, family and friends where they can come together and socialize in a relaxed environment free of expectations and judgment.  If you haven’t been able to take your family member, friend or client out because he or she engages in loud verbalizations, likes to walk around, or tends to become soiled when eating, going to an Alzheimer’s Café aims to be a liberating, easy, and comfortable experience.

Alzheimer’s Cafes are not supported groups in the traditional sense, but they do seem to have the ability to provide support to those who may be feeling very alone. There’s even a National Alzheimer’s Café Alliance that lists participating cafés across the nation. There are 14 in Washington State with 10 in the Family Resource Home Care service area (at Elmer’s Restaurant in Tacoma; Tutta Bella Neapolitan Pizzeria — Crossroads in Bellevue; The Stage Door Café, The Queen Bee Café, Peet’s Coffee & Tea, and Tutta Bella Neapolitan Pizzeria in Seattle; Mo’s Pizza in Mercer Island; The Harvester Restaurant in Gig Harbor; Pagliacci Pizza in Edmonds and IHOP in Marysville).

You can find more information about local Alzheimer’s Cafes, locations and times at Full Life, the Momentia Calendar, and the National Alzheimer’s Café Alliance.

photo credit: garryknight Touch the Dog via photopin (license)