Making an appointment to meet someone with memory loss might seem like an exercise in frustration: isn’t the person with cognitive impairment likely to forget about the rendezvous?
In ordinary circumstances, perhaps. But Memory Cafés were created with memory loss in mind. A Memory Café is a welcoming gathering place for people with Alzheimer’s or any other type of brain disorder.
Memory Cafés are safe, relaxing spaces where caregivers and loved ones can socialize, listen to music, play a game, and enjoy other appropriate activities in a supportive environment that recognizes the unique needs and behaviors of people with dementia, and has structured the café accordingly.
Making New Memories
Currently, there are more than 700 Memory Cafés operating throughout the U.S., Canada, the UK, and Australia. As the senior population spirals upward, Memory Cafés are also mushrooming to meet the needs of the growing number of people with memory impairment.
Centenarians are the fastest growing segment of the population. There are 85,000 U.S. centenarians now; by 2050, they will be 600,000 strong. And half of those 85 and older are at risk of developing dementia.
But it isn’t just the oldest old who need or will need memory care: according to the latest Alzheimer’s facts and figures, one in ten American 65+ has Alzheimer’s disease today. This figure, already in excess of 5.8 million adults, is projected to reach 13.8 million by 2050 (this is inclusive of centenarians).
With a combined shortfall of professional caregivers and an escalating need, it’s essential that we innovate creative ways to support those needing memory care, now and in the years ahead.
Anticipating this need, The Kensington Falls Church has partnered with Famille Café to offer Famille at The Kensington, a Memory Café setting that provides residents, family, friends, and the broader Falls Church community with an opportunity to meet, mingle, share ideas and give and receive emotional support in a welcoming setting.
This special partnership also includes Falls Church Arts and Insight Memory Care Center. Together, we develop fun and engaging programs that everyone can enjoy. Memory Café at Famille meets every second and fourth Monday. Please check our events page to see the most current information on our upcoming schedule and RSVP.
Origins of the Memory Café
Dutch psychiatrist Bere Miesen introduced the Memory Café concept in 1997 as a way to break through the stigma associated with the “dementia” label. Because the topic was fairly taboo, elders with memory loss — and those who love and care for them — suffered as a result.
Dr. Miesen’s idea mirrors another memory-related concept pioneered in the Netherlands that has helped bring memory loss into everyday conversation: “Dementia Villages“, which are simulated, indoor towns that, stateside, replicate small-town America.
Dementia Villages, which are patterned on American life from the 1950s, provide a safe space for people with dementia to enjoy as normal a life as possible. With yesteryear-themed design conducive to Reminiscence Therapy, a Dementia Village aims to calm and comfort those with memory loss by providing familiar features from the past: cars from the 1950s, a black-and-white movie theatre, and even a working diner.
(The 1950s are the key era for people who are in their 70s to 90s now, because this time period returns them to when they were between ten and 30 years old, which is when our strongest memories form.)
Memory Cafés perform another vital function: keeping seniors with mild memory impairment socially connected, which has been repeatedly shown to make a huge difference in both mental and physical well being. In an oft-quoted, riveting statistic, the U.S. surgeon general determined that elder isolation is as detrimental to health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
In fact, in one recent poll, more than 25 percent of seniors reported they have only one social contact or less per week with someone outside their home.
Here at The Kensington, we understand how important socialization is to mental health. That’s why, in addition to Famille at The Kensington, we offer a life enrichment calendar designed to keep our residents as involved as they wish to be.
Activities and friendships have been shown to reduce stress, preserve wellness, keep the mind sharp and increase feelings of worth, especially for seniors. So, we are always searching for new ways to stimulate the mind, strengthen the body, and nourish the spirit.
We believe everyone here has something worthwhile to contribute, whether it’s musical ability, a passion for cooking or a penchant for golf. By providing a variety of activities and programs, we create ways to share ourselves with each other and create a family rich with dimension.
Other Memory Care Resources
In addition to the exceptional memory care we provide, The Kensington wants our residents’ families and caregivers to have access to the extensive life-enriching programs and services offered in the Falls Church area. These include:
- The Falls Church Senior Center
- Shepherd’s Center of McLean-Arlington-Falls Church, a non-profit, interfaith organization serving older adults in northern Virginia
- Falls Church Library, which provides a Senior Book Discussion series.
To support you as you research the best care and environment for your loved one, we also recommend a number of digital resources, including:
- The Alzheimer’s Association Caregiving portal, which provides information, training, and support for caregivers
- Caregiver Action Network, the nation’s leading family caregiver organization
- Caring from a Distance, an organization for long-distance caregivers
- Alzheimer’s Online Community, a virtual support group for families, friends and caregivers caring for a loved one with memory loss.
If you have a loved one experiencing memory loss, we invite you to come see The Kensington Difference, and how we fulfill our promise to love and care for your family as we do our own.