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The Memory Cafe offers engagement for those with memory loss

There's a new cafe at the Mount Airy Senior and Community Center, but it doesn't offer espresso drinks or sell overpriced bottled water. The Memory Cafe is a group open to people dealing with memory loss, such as dementia or Alzheimer's disease, as well as their friends, families and caregivers.

"It is such a nice program and I have had people come here to it that won't participate in anything else," said Angie Walls, manager of the center. "It offers the caregivers options of different things to do and it doesn't belittle the people that have dementia."

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The Memory Cafe is free to attend and meets the first Friday of every month from 10 a.m. until 11:30 a.m., according to Nancy Ensor, case manager for senior care at the Carroll County Bureau of Aging and Disabilities and the organizer of the program. It is designed as a social engagement program, so rather than simply meeting to discuss memory loss, as might take place in a support group composed only of caregivers, the Memory Cafe mixes activities designed for those dealing with memory loss with information for their families and caregivers. Refreshments are also served.

"We do a physical activity and then we do a mental stimulation, like memory games, to help stimulate the mind — we've done jewelry making, we've played cards and we will do scrapbooking," Ensor said. "Each activity is 10-15 minutes long so they don't lose concentration."

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Each monthly meeting of the cafe will also feature a speaker on memory loss and associated topics, according to Ensor, and while the event is free, she said that pre-registration is preferred. Those interested should call Ensor at 410-386-3833.

The cafe is presented as a partnership between the Bureau of Aging and Disabilities and the Alzheimer's Association, which has launched five other memory cafes in Maryland, according to Cathy Hanson, program coordinator for the Greater Maryland Chapter of the Alzheimer's Association.

"There is one in Frederick County, one in Baltimore City, one in Howard County and the first was in Washington County," she said. "These have all grown in the past two years ... Here in the state of Maryland, there are 97,000 people living with Alzheimer's and one in eight baby boomers is going to develop the disease, so these programs are going to become more and more common to respond to the need."

The idea of a Memory Cafe began in the United Kingdom, according to Hanson, and has spread to at least 100 locations in the United States in the past decade, with the Alzheimer's Association coordinating the programs.

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"The idea of the cafe is that it's catchy and laid back," Hanson said. "We just wanted to create these comfortable places for people with Alzheimer's to come together ... There is definitely a stigma associated with Alzheimer's and [the Memory Cafe] helps keep people engaged in their communities."

The first cafe meeting was held in May and was more of round-table brainstorm session where those that attended could express what they hoped to see in the program, according to Ensor. Eight people attended the June meeting, and there was no meeting in July due to the July 4 holiday, so Ensor said she was interested to see the turnout on Friday — if the program grows steadily, the bureau could open Memory Cafes at other senior center locations.

"That's a possibility," she said. "We really hadn't set a limit on it. Some people come one month and the next month they might not. We'll see what happens."

Reach staff writer Jon Kelvey at 410-857-3317 or jon.kelvey@carrollcountytimes.com.

If you go

What: The Memory Cafe

When: 10-11:30 a.m. Aug. 1

Where: The Mount Airy Senior and Community Center, 703 Ridge Road, Mount Airy

Cost: Free

For more information or to register to attend the Memory Cafe, call Nancy Ensor at 410-386-3833.

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