What Are Memory Cafés?

Posted By on September 15, 2022

In 1997, a Dutch psychiatrist named Bene Miesen wanted to create a social setting for people living with dementia and their caregivers. His initial goal was to break through the stigma that many people associate with various forms of dementia and start a conversation to highlight the challenges that caregivers often face.

Dr. Miesen opened the very first “Alzheimer Café,” as it was initially called, later that year in the Netherlands. The idea quickly spread to England and Ireland, thanks to Dr. Miesen and his colleague, Dr. Gemma Jones.

In 2008, the memory café was founded in the United States in Santa Fe, New Mexico, by Dr. Jyette Fogh Lokvig. This movement has since taken off in America, with over 1,000 in-person and virtual memory cafés across the country.

So, What Are Memory Cafés?

These “cafés” are areas where those living with dementia, their caregivers, and friends can come together in a comfortable environment. Memory cafés gather a few times a month in places like libraries, public parks, houses, and – you guessed it – cafés or coffee shops. 

These safe havens are wonderful options for those living with various forms of dementia, as they can continue to keep up with their social lives without the fear of judgment or insecurity. 

What Happens at a Memory Café?

According to Marti Wesala, a memory café coordinator for the George G. Glenner Alzheimer’s Family Centers, the activities and conversations held at memory cafés can “help you protect your brain as long as possible,” as many participants are still in an initial post-diagnosis stage.

Many memory cafés take part in activities that focus on stimulating the mind, like trivia or crossword puzzles, in order to keep the brain active. Wesala stated in a Healthline interview that after participating in games, “people [begin to reminisce]. They talk about what games they played while growing up or their first job. They love hearing each other’s stories.” 

How Can Memory Cafés Benefit Those with Dementia?

When someone is living with dementia, consistency is key, including social interaction and daily routines. In many cases, those affected face challenges in social settings after their diagnosis; sometimes, it can be hard to feel confident socially, and some begin to act differently than they normally would as the effects on the brain progress.

Regularly interacting with friends, family, and community members at a memory café can build a strong foundation of confidence. By talking to like-minded people in a safe environment, people living with dementia feel self-assured and supported and can enjoy connecting with new people.

Memory café meetings can also provide a consistent routine. Daily, weekly and monthly routines allow those living with dementia to rely on a sense of order and predictability as they navigate their daily lives. Memory cafés typically have meetings on a set monthly schedule, which can add to their routine, provide consistency, and allow them to have something engaging to look forward to!

How Can Memory Cafés Benefit Caregivers?

While the cafés were created for those living with dementia, they’re also beneficial for caregivers. It can be a freeing experience to meet with others that are going through similar situations and spend time talking to people who understand the challenges that you might be facing.

Memory cafés are also an opportunity for caregivers to share resources, both educational and medical. By creating a conversation around treatment options, care services, and general advice, caregivers can find help and support while also finding friendship and encouragement!

In addition, these cafés offer a break for caregivers to stave off burnout, stress, or even over-exhaustion for those who go the extra mile caring for someone they love.

Find a Memory Café Near You

According to AARP, the top states for memory cafés include:

  1. Wisconsin
  2. Massachusetts
  3. Illinois
  4. Minnesota
  5. Washington
  6. Texas
  7. Pennsylvania
  8. California
  9. Virginia
  10. North Carolina

To find a memory café near you, contact your local Area Agency on Aging, Alzheimer’s Association chapter, or the Alzheimer’s Foundation.

HarborChase Senior Living is proud to have memory care communities across these states: 


HarborChase of Shorewood


HarborChase of Naperville

HarborChase of Plainfield

HarborChase of Long Grove


HarborChase of McKinney

HarborChase of Plano

HarborChase of Southlake


HarborChase of Prince William Commons

Visit our website to learn more about our specialized memory care communities and services.