At the Chicago Memory Café, a group of people living with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, along with their caregivers, gather for social engagement and support.
Here, they find conversations and connections. The nationwide cafés aim to eliminate the stigma surrounding memory loss and combat the depression and isolation that exacerbate symptoms.
Programs have included scrapbooking, dance therapy and physical fitness to keep the brain stimulated and the body healthy. Participants may listen to music, play games or exchange resources.
In a light-filled room at Loyola University downtown, those in various stages of memory loss and their caregivers spend time together. The Chicago Memory Café, launched in January 2018, originated with Darby Morhardt, PhD, associate professor at the Mesulam Center for Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer’s Disease at Northwestern Medicine, which partnered with Loyola and two other organizations to start the café.
Icebreaker topics get the conversations flowing. At one gathering, participants were asked to name their favorite song or musician, which was followed by an activity with a music therapist. “She performed songs that were familiar,” Morhardt says. “Soon everyone was singing along, because experiences and memories of music are in a part of the brain that is not as affected by dementia and are retained much longer.”
Memory cafés are held in 23 locations around Illinois. For information, visit memorycafedirectory.com.