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Naperville
Friday, April 19, 2024

Our Voices – Memory Café: A dementia-friendly initiative

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There’s a new group in Naperville for individuals living with Dementia and their care partners where they can come together with others who have shared experiences.

The Memory Café, which was launched in November 2021, as part of the Dementia Friendly Naperville initiative, is a social-based group open to individuals living with Dementia and Alzheimer’s and their care partners, family members, or friends, where they can come together once per month and connect with other participants and care partners. Coming together with people going through the same experience can help alleviate some of the isolation that Dementia patients and their care partners face. Memory Café provides a safe and welcoming environment to do this.

Lisa Kirchner, the coordinator of Memory Café, states there are anywhere from 10-20 participants each month and the numbers are growing. She is assisted by volunteers Jennifer Brasfield and Pam Graffagna, who help run the activities. The group’s primary focus is socialization and engagement with others, and includes activities, games, music, trivia, and crafts. Each month is a different theme which also includes educational speakers, and presentations. The activities are geared to both participant and care partner.

In 2020, Naperville became a Dementia-friendly community, and the goal of Dementia Friendly Naperville was to increase awareness of Dementia in the community and to disseminate resources for people living with Dementia. Another goal was to provide a socialization component. The Memory Café was a direct result of this initiative, and the response has been positive.

According to Kirchner, many participants attend regularly, and a system of support and care is evident among the group members.

“I have seen people who attend regularly and are forming friendships,” Kirchner said. “They call each other by their names and check up on them.”

Both participants and care partners have expressed gratitude for the group. One participant indicated that the group was, “exactly what I needed,” while a loved one of a participant noted that his father, “looks forward to coming.”

Kirchner reflected that this type of feedback “warms my heart because that is the whole point of the group: that some people who started as strangers have now become friends.”
Memory Café is held on the second Tuesday of every month from 2-3:30PM at the Naperville Public Library on 95th Street. The group is free to attend, and, although registration is preferred, walk-ins are most certainly welcomed.

For registration and/or information, contact Lisa Kirchner at lmdkirchner@gmail.com or (630) 710-7502

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Arlene Orr
Arlene Orr
Arlene Orr is a Naperville resident and member of the Naperville Senior Task Force.
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