Alzheimer Cafés

Founded in the Netherlands, Alzheimer Cafés – also known as memory or dementia cafes – have become a popular and easily transferable programme used to connect people, share information, and bolster support in many countries around the world.

In 1997, a Dutch clinical old age psychologist named Dr Bère Miesen came up with the unique idea to start the first Alzheimer Café; a place with a welcoming atmosphere in an accessible location where all people affected by dementia could meet and feel at-ease.

From its humble beginnings in a lecture room at Leiden University, the concept of Alzheimer Cafés has spread through the fabric of many societies, helping to overcome the stigma surrounding dementia by providing a social setting where people with dementia and carers can meet others in a similar situation and feel supported and encouraged to speak about their condition as well as their personal experiences.

The Alzheimer’s cafe is an informal way to make contact with each other, to receive a consultation and feel at home. In the Netherlands, patients feel they have a place to just be. This way the patient and their family don’t have to deny or avoid the illness.” Bere Miesen [1]

Although people with dementia and their families, friends or carers are core attendees, others with an interest in dementia, such as students, nurses, people from other charities, local politicians, or those who want to find out more about dementia are welcome to attend an Alzheimer Café.

The Café event usually begins with a discussion or presentation on a particular theme, followed by a less structured session where those attending can share their experiences, thoughts and ideas with others. Moderators vary in their experience; some are from a counselling background with knowledge of dementia and experience with group work, while others are volunteers who have received specific training on how to run an Alzheimer Café and to actively engage with people living with dementia and their carers. To support the implementation of Alzheimer cafés and to ensure best practice and high standards, many countries have developed ‘how-to’ guides on developing and maintaining cafés.   

Alzheimer Cafés share many of the same aims as global dementia friendly efforts; with a particular focus on reducing stigma, encouraging social engagement, and empowering people with dementia and carers. The success of Alzheimer Cafés is evident from the growing number of cafes world-wide. Anecdotal reports suggest they have a positive impact on the quality of life of people living with dementia and their families, by reducing isolation many feel after diagnosis. [2] One study in Australia demonstrated that dementia cafés can promote social inclusion and improve the social and emotional well-being of attendees. [3]