Community Partners to open 'memory cafe' in Two Harbors

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Older adults in Two Harbors living with dementia or cognitive loss will soon have a new resource for social interaction and engagement thanks to a new grant from the Northland Foundation.

Community Partners, an aging services provider in the Two Harbors area, will begin hosting "memory cafes" once a month to and will provide a "mix of entertainment, activities and hospitality," according to a release from the organization. Community Partners' mission is to support the independence of older adults and the group received a $5,000 grant from Northland Foundation's Rural Aging Initiative to open a memory cafe in Two Harbors.

Community Partners will hold its first memory cafe from 1-3 p.m. Feb. 21 at the Two Harbors Community Center. It plans to schedule additional events on the third Wednesday in March and April as well.

The memory cafes are for individuals living with "changes in their thinking and memory, mild cognitive impairment or dementia," as well as those people providing care for them. The events are intended to create a safe and welcoming place for those made uncomfortable in other social settings as well as their caregivers.

"The cafe is created with the idea that it is a safe place for people to go," Community Partners caregiver consultant Linda Kinnunen said. "Often, it will be family members, like a spouse or child, but it's some place they can and have coffee and meet with others that are in the same situation and is a good place for networking. In some cases, it is a the place for couples to go who really don't feel comfortable anywhere else."

In addition to coffee and snacks, Kinnunen hopes to have local musicians playing during the cafes or artists showing their work and conducting demonstrations.

"It won't be like a formal concert or performance," she said. "People will sit and play their music or show their art and do a demonstration or try to involve the people coming to the cafe if they want to participate. It will be a place that has more of a party atmosphere."

Memory cafes originated in Holland more than 20 years ago and are found in many countries around the world, including the U.S. The cafes began as a way to break through the stigma associated with the various forms of dementia. The concept spread throughout Europe and eventually made its way to the U.S., creating an open culture for people with all forms of cognitive loss, not just dementia.

"(Memory cafes) have proven themselves to be a good base for people who have any level of cognitive loss," Kinnunen said.

Currently, there are at least 12 memory cafes operating in Minnesota. The events can be hosted in a variety of locations and offer a cost-effective way for those suffering from memory loss and cognitive impairment to get out of the house, relax and have some fun.

Attendance at the memory cafes is free, but Kinnunen requests those planning to attend to contact her at 218-834-8024 so they have an attendance count.