Madison’s newest Memory Cafe gives patients, families opportunity to socialize

Museum of Contemporary Art to host monthly program
Madison’s newest Memory Cafe gives patients, families opportunity to socialize

One in three seniors will die with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. Every minute, another American develops the disease.

People living with someone who suffers from memory loss know just how debilitating its effects can be: making it hard to socialize and enjoy life.

A program put on by the Alzheimer’s and Dementia Alliance of Wisconsin hopes to make life easier for the 110,000 people living with memory loss.

At several locations every month, the Alliance hosts a “Memory Cafe.” It’s a social gathering place for people with memory loss and cognitive impairments, early Alzheimer’s, or other forms of dementia, as well as their family and friends.

The cafes are described as a fun way for families to connect with others dealing with the same issues. They meet once a month in a relaxed environment to visit, share common interests, and have something to eat and drink. Each monthly cafe is different, offering a unique program or activity that’s both stimulating and fun. The activities are chosen by participants, depending on their interests.

This Thursday is the first Madison Arts Memory Cafe, held from 1-3 p.m. at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art. Following the first meeting on Jan. 17, the cafe will be held on the third Thursday of each month.

The Alliance’s newest program is its most unique yet. “We will be having programming that’s specific to the arts, and that’s with a capital A,” said Noreen Kralapp, dementia outreach specialist in Dane County. “The first one will be music. It will be an opportunity for people who in the past have said, ‘Well I used to play this and I used to play that.’ It’s an opportunity for them to have a live jam session together.”

“The arts serve as a bridge that really connects people who have Alzheimer’s and dementia and their loved ones, of course,” said Kralapp. “But what happens and what their loved ones have shared with me is that sometimes they have the words, but they can’t get them out. Sometimes they can’t even find the words, but they know they want to say something. So the arts work as a bridge to help them express themselves when they can’t use their words.”

Memory Cafes are also held once a month at seven other locations in Dane County, as well as in Adams, Columbia, Crawford, Grant, Green, Iowa, Juneau, Marquette, Richland, Rock, and Sauk counties.

Click here for a full Memory Cafe schedule.

All cafes are free, and do not require pre-registration. Donations are accepted to help cover costs. Host sites also chip in to make Memory Cafes possible.

The Alliance is always accepting volunteers who wish to perform at these monthly cafes, or help interact with the participants. You can click on the schedule link above to find out how to get involved.

The Alzheimer’s and Dementia Alliance of Wisconsin has a long list of free resources available for people and families dealing with the life-changing effects of memory loss. You can find links to newsletters, clinics, early stage programs, and other resources here.

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