By Paula Rais, CMNH Vice President of Development and Community Engagement
In 2011, the Children's Museum of New Hampshire launched the first Alzheimer's Cafe on America’s east coast. Alzheimer’s Cafés provide a safe, supportive and judgment-free setting for people living with dementia and their loved ones to enjoy an outing in the community, socialize, and make new friends. This program exemplifies the museum’s goal of working with communities to meet existing needs and demonstrates an innovative, concrete way to provide community based solutions to these problems. The Museum’s vibrant inter-generational environment proved to be an ideal setting and the Café became very popular. Dozens of similar programs sprouted up in communities around New England modeled after the Museum’s program.
At the Café each month, we share stories and tell jokes, listen to musical performances and interesting presentations, or celebrate holidays and birthdays. Some attendees became friends and socialized outside the monthly Cafe gatherings. According to Dr. Lokvig, the founder of the first Alzheimer’s Café in the USA, “In spite of the name ‘Alzheimer’s Café’, we leave the disease at the door and celebrate the person beyond dementia. The Café is a chance for everyone to step out of their daily roles and share a positive experience in a supportive environment.”
Since Covid-19 struck in March 2020, our Café has not been able to meet. I know that our Café families are missing each other's companionship and support, and we miss seeing them at the Museum. When it is deemed safe for our staff and visitors, we will explore options for resuming this important program. Please contact me if you would like more information about the Alzheimer's Cafe or want to be on our email list to receive updates.
In the meantime, allow me to honor the occasion of the 9th anniversary of the Alzheimer's Cafe at the Children's Museum, the many families who shared their lives with us, and the generous volunteers, performers, and funders who helped make it all possible.