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What is a Memory Cafe?

A Memory Cafe is a wonderfully welcoming place for individuals with Alzheimer’s Disease or any other form of dementia, or other brain disorders. They are designed to include the care partner as well, for a shared experience. Additionally, it is helpful for people with all forms of mild cognitive impairment (MCI.)

Individual Memory Cafes focus on different aspects for a unique experience. You may find some are activities-based, while others focus on education. You might have one enjoying the connections of demographic-appropriate music and dancing. Others might focus on crafts and painting, while some facilitate informal conversation to create new friendships. Some simply guide the participants in exercises that foster reminiscing.

There truly is something for everyone!

Not Respite Care

While a Memory Cafe is beneficial for those living with dementia, it is also beneficial for their caregivers as well. It is not a place to “drop off” your loved one for a while, but a way to enjoy activities with them as a break from the normal routine that you share.

A Memory Cafe is a safe and comfortable space where caregivers and their loved ones can socialize, listen to music, play games, and enjoy other appropriate activities. They provide mutual support and exchange information. This by itself is valuable if for nothing more than to obtain information about additional resources.

They can simply enjoy the company of those with similar things in common.

Activities are varied, but tend to focus on topics that are apt to cause one to reminisce about times gone by. That “connection” to the past can be as comforting as it is medically beneficial. Emphasis is often placed on activities where humor can be a central part of the enjoyment.

You may find refreshments offered, or you may be a part of a pot-luck style gathering. In most cases, you’ll be able to obtain valuable resources from local support organizations to help you in your caregiving experience.

Generally, Memory Cafes are hosted and/or facilitated by health care and social services professionals to provide guidance and respond to questions or requests for resources.

Mostly, a Memory Cafe is meant to make connections with those who are being challenged in a similar manner as you and your loved one.

The Memory Cafe’s Roots

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With roots in the Netherlands, Dr. Bere Miesen, a Dutch psychiatrist introduced the Memory Cafe concept in 1997 as a way to break through the stigma associated with various forms of Dementia.

It simply “wasn’t discussed” and those living with the disease – and their caregivers – were suffering as a result.

The concept spread throughout Europe, to Ireland and England, Australia and eventually to the United States. As the Memory Cafe concept evolved, it grew into a very open culture, including more than just those living with various forms of Dementia.

Many programs have been created in recent years for individuals suffering from all kinds of cognitive impairment. While Alzheimer’s Disease is the most common, individuals with all forms of Dementia, along with those surviving a stroke or traumatic brain injury, can benefit from the safe, welcoming and mentally stimulating environments of Memory Cafes. Again, there really is something for everyone.

New Memory Cafes, with a diverse collection of focus areas, continue to open across the country as a natural response to a growing health concern. However, while many are being created, there is still a shortage of quality supportive resources due to the fast-growing nature of the problem. Our goal here at is to help those who can benefit, find a Cafe conveniently located near them.

Today in America

Memory Cafe Directory MapToday, hundreds of Memory Cafes take place on a regular basis in the United States. While there is no argument as to the value this type of outing can hold, the challenge seems to be finding one close by. That’s why was created!

We found many individual news items online talking about a local Memory Cafe, its founders, its location, and its schedule. That was a good first step, but more was needed.

Next, we found many badly outdated “directories” and “registries” that had a good idea, but didn’t keep the momentum going. Outdated information was implied with last update dates of several years prior. A better solution was needed to deliver real value to families.

Our intention was to seek out, document, keep current, and promote this valuable information. We believe having an easy-to-use resource, allowing anyone in the United States to easily find their state on a map, scroll to their city, and know how they can help their loved one, is a very worthwhile effort.

Now with over 800 listings (and you’ll learn in a moment, that includes more than just the U.S.!) the “seek out” concept just mentioned is a smaller piece of the puzzle. Several new Memory Cafes are submitted every week. These come from people who simply want to have their Memory Cafe visible to others.

Keep Current

This needs a bit of emphasis. While new listings are submitted almost daily, there are an equal (and sometimes greater) number of requests to have a current listing updated.

While it’s good to grow the Directory, it is every bit as important to keep the information accurate. If times change, or a new location is selected, or… We welcome any change to the listing to keep it a valuable reference point for families.

Outside the U.S.

After starting Memory Cafe Directory with the intention of covering the United States, we noticed interest from visitors to the site from outside the country. It is an unfortunate reality that Dementia knows no borders.

Memory Cafe Directory Australia Canada U.K. United Kingdom

In looking at the visitor statistics we found three countries with the highest visitor counts of any outside the U.S.:

Naturally, that led us to create those sections on Memory Cafe Directory and our growth continues!

Most recently, there’s been interest from groups from Brazil and New Zealand. We hope those organizations begin to use Memory Cafe Directory as well!

Types of Locations

Memory Cafes take place in a wide range of venues. For example, they can meet at:

  • Coffee Houses
  • Restaurants
  • Community Centers
  • Assisted Living and Continuing Care Communities
  • Galleries
  • Libraries
  • Museums
  • Conference rooms
  • Farms
  • Just about any warm, inviting location!

While the ambiance of a location can certainly add a unique element to the experience, simple spaces can be very effective as well. It is as much a function of the participants and facilitators, as it is the physical space.

Another benefit of having a single source of information about Memory Cafes in your area? You can choose to visit more than one! When regional Cafe operators vary their schedules, you are able to attend several of them on a rotating basis. Having a centralized resource showing ALL Cafes helps operators coordinate their planning.

For example, you might attend Cafe A on the 1st Monday of each month. Then, attend Cafe B nearby on the second Tuesday. Cafe C just down the road meets on the third Thursday. Finally, Cafe D in the next county meets on the last Friday of each month.

That becomes a weekly outing!

Valuable Business Model

Memory Cafes are good for people with cognitive impairment and their caregivers. They are also very good business for proprietors willing to make their space available.

For example, Memory Cafes do well in quieter environments, with moderate background noise and a more calm ambiance. An mid-afternoon session in a restaurant’s private dining area could be a very good fit. A restaurant owner could do a lot worse than to have a fun group of people benefit from the shop’s slow period.

Are you a gallery or museum curator and want to more fully utilize your facility? Seek out a Memory Cafe to conduct their activities during your slowest times.

Do you have a unique space that isn’t used all the time and you want to make very, very good use of it? You already know the answer, don’t you?

Visit our Good for Business page to see how you can benefit from having a Memory Cafe at your location.

Starting Your Own?

How to set up and run a Memory Cafe
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All this may sound exactly what you need. But after checking Memory Cafe Directory for a Memory Cafe in your area, what if there isn’t one? You may be interested in starting a Memory Cafe for your local community!

One of the most often asked questions we receive is related to either starting or promoting a new Memory Cafe. We decided to bundle up all our responses and give you a guide for starting a Memory Cafe in your local area.

Take this as your next step in helping others in your community!


Most importantly, if your Memory Cafe is listed, and the entry needs to be updated for any reason, let us know. Times change, date frequency can change, even the location might move. You might simply want to add some additional information about logistics, or maybe your web site address.

Get in touch and we’ll update your entry right away to allow as many people to enjoy your Memory Cafe as possible.

Observe. Talk. Engage. Connect.

What to Read Next:

Here’s where to go next on Memory Cafe Directory to get more information.

Check back often in our “START HERE” section as we add more valuable information.

Thank you!