Café’s for people with Dementia (the umbrella term for a set of symptoms including impaired thinking and memory), are a welcoming space for individuals with Dementia and other neurological disorders. They are also a great place to come for people with other forms of mild cognitive impairment. The aim of these cafés is to reduce the stigma of the disease and give people a sense of purpose and belonging in the larger community.

The cafes are starting to get some publicity on social media and alike in the past few years in Australia, and you might find yourself wondering what they are? Well, I am going to break that down for you.

Café’s for people with Dementia, started to first arise in the Netherlands in 1997, when Dr Bere Miesen, a psychologist, noticed that people were suffering from the stigma and social isolation of the disease and these cafés have been of great success in Europe ever since (Miesen and Jones, 2004). The cafés started to emerge in United States in 2008, and the UK from around 2010. Australia has been following suit in the last five years, with the majority of the cafes opening in Victoria and Perth.

Due to the nature of the disease, people living with Dementia may sometimes display symptoms that makes it hard for them to be in social situations, leaving the individual and their carer isolated and often removed from their usual social networks.

Some friends and family members can feel unsure of how to act around the person with Dementia and may stop visiting as frequently as the disease progresses. This can be heartbreaking for those with the disease, and their loved ones. The Café’s available around the world, can be quite unique from place to place.
Some may focus on music or art therapy, physical exercise, activities or just a relaxed get together where information and friendship is shared. Other versions of the Café are starting to emerge such as early onset Dementia, LGBT or different ethnic groups, but mostly they are mixed groups here in Australia.

The cafes are not just of benefit to individuals with the diagnosis either, they are a great resource to their carers too. These spaces provide a great opportunity to connect with other people on a similar journey, share stories, access information, support agencies and create supportive relationships with others that can be lifelong. Furthermore, other patrons
at the cafes are less likely to be unsettled by any behaviours displayed that do not fit in with social norms.

What cafés can do;
Give people a chance to discuss their own diagnosis, or someone’s else’s.
Obtain information from health professionals in a relaxed and informal environment.
Keep active, mentally and or physically, makes new friends and increase confidence.

Combat loneliness and social isolation, reduce the stigma of the disease and give people and their loves ones an opportunity to connect, relax and learn new things.

What cafes cannot do;
The Café is not a respite, session or a place to drop off your loved one, it is more a relaxing break from the everyday routine and stress that can come with living with the disease when unsupported.
Diagnose – but they can point you in the right directions as health professionals, people with experience of the disease and sometimes even guest speakers will be often present in the group to support people if needed.

What our Café aims to provide;
The Community Café aims to provide all the things mentioned in this article, but we also want to be guided by our attendees. It is a social space where carers feel included and can bond with their loved ones, whilst creating strong supportive networks with others. In a recent study on the feedback from carers at dementia cafes throughout the UK, by Akhtar et
al (2017), it was highlighted that people with dementia and their carers do not need to be entertained or kept busy to enjoy this space. The community cafés want to provide an environment where they will be coffee, food, activities from time to time, reminiscence therapy, puzzles and information sessions as requested.

We aim to make this café as informal as possible, with information given when asked for by you or your loved ones. We value your input greatly and have created a social profile for you to complete to get to know you better from the very beginning. With all that said, we are pleased to be able to offer a permanent monthly Café to the Canberra community.
If you would like any more information about the Community Café, please contact me through the website, fill out the enrolment form and register your interest for the first Café at Burrangiri Event, 1/7 Rivett Pl, Rivett, ACT 2611, Australia.

Author: Nicole Smith

Akhtar, F., Greenwood, N., Smith, R & Richardson, A. (2017). Dementia café’s: recommendations from interviews with informal carers. Working with Older People, 21(4), pp. 236-242.
Miesen, B.L. and Jones, G.M.M. (2004), “The Alzheimer café concept: a response to the trauma, drama and tragedy of dementia”, in Jones, G.M.M. and Miesen, B.L. (Eds), Care Giving in Dementia: Research and Applications, Vol. 3, Brunner Routledge, Hove, pp. 307-33.