New group for those with memory concerns and their care partners begins

Published 8:00 pm Friday, October 1, 2021

Through the help of the Albert Lea-Freeborn County Chamber of Commerce, community partners and a grant from Southeastern Minnesota Area Agency on Aging (SEMAAA), Freeborn County kicked off the Freeborn County Memory Café with an ice cream social Monday at the Freeborn County Historical Museum.

The event was free and open to those living with memory challenges and their care partners, according to a press release. Games, resources and conversation were featured, and there were drawings to give away 15 memory kits.

A memory cafe is a safe, comfortable and stimulating place for people with memory challenges and their caregivers to come together. Each memory café is unique. Some invite guest artists and musicians; some offer education; and some are just for relaxing and chatting; however, all memory cafes share these goals: to help guests feel comfortable and know they are not alone. Memory cafes are a place to talk with others who understand what you are going through and enjoy each other’s company.

The concept of a memory café began in the Netherlands in 1997. Today, there are over 700 memory cafés in the United States, 31 in Minnesota.

According to dementia experts, memory cafés provide a break from disease and disability. They offer social connectivity, inclusion and a time to step out of the daily routine. People living with dementia can become isolated due to increasing difficulty of engaging in everyday activities. Isolation can increase the effects of dementia and often leads to depression and other medical conditions. There’s also the stigma that makes people feel unwelcome or embarrassed in public situations. Memory cafés provide normalcy and a welcoming environment.

The Freeborn County Memory Café will be a two-hour social gathering, designed to stimulate shared connections via music, art, meaningful conversation, education and resources. It is a free event for those living with memory challenges and their care partners. Each month, facilitators will present engaging activities for guests to enjoy, despite the level of their cognitive abilities. Information and resources will be available; however, guests will not be asked about their diagnosis. There will be no open discussion about illness or memory. The goal is for everyone, including those who haven’t been diagnosed, to feel welcome.

Jean Eaton, SEMAAA Board member, and Chersten Keillor with SEMAAA speak during the memory cafe Monday at the Freeborn County Historical Museum. Provided

The Freeborn County Memory Café will be held from 10 a.m. until noon the second Thursday of each month at the Freeborn County Historical Museum at 1031 Bridge Ave. in Albert Lea.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 5.8 million people, or 1 in every 10 people aged 65 and older, are currently living with a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias in the United States. Between 2019 and 2025, the projected number of individuals diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease is expected to increase by 17%, 14 million by 2050.

The Freeborn County Memory Café is a first step towards creating “Dementia Friendly Freeborn County.” This café will spread awareness and encourage participation from multiple sectors throughout the community. For example, businesses can become sponsors, local artists or musicians can facilitate activities, and community members can volunteer.

To find out more about the Freeborn County Memory Café or how you can help, contact the Albert Lea-Freeborn County Chamber of Commerce at 507-373-3938.