Memory Cafes and Dementia Friendly Communities

Persons living with dementia (PLWD) and their care partners often experience social disengagement and disconnection as they navigate disease progression. Isolation can cause multiple challenges for the PLWD and their care partners including depression, a decline in health, and worsening of symptoms. This can cause further isolation as well as strain on the PLWD and care partner’s relationship. Increasing social connection can assist with maintaining mental, emotional and physical health.

The concept for the Memory Café began in Holland as a grassroots movement in 1997 and spread quickly through Canada, Europe, Australia, and the United States. Each café is unique, designed to serve the specific community in which it is held. The cafés provide support and social connection to individuals at any stage of the disease process. Participants are encouraged to gather together in a non-medical setting, diminishing the focus on the diagnosis. Information and resources are often available; however, the aim of a Memory Café is to provide a supportive community setting for PLWD and their care partners to enjoy time together while socializing with others who may be experiencing similar challenges.

As an example of Memory Cafés in Illinois, Northwestern University, Loyola University Chicago, Renewal Care, and the Chicago Center for Cognitive Wellness announced the opening of the Chicago Memory Café (CMC).

The idea for the CMC arose from feedback from a care partner focus group at the Northwestern Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer’s Disease Center (CNADC), which revealed the need for more programming for individuals with dementia and their care partners. The development of a Memory Café was identified as a way to help meet this need.

Northwestern University CNADC reached out to Renewal Care, the Chicago Center for Cognitive Wellness, and Loyola University of Chicago (LUC).  They held a Town Hall meeting for PLWD and their care partners to collaborate in the creation of the CMC that would provide a monthly two-hour social gathering for individuals living with dementia and their care partners that would include creative and meaningful programming. Sponsorships for programming and refreshments have been successful in making the CMC free to participants.

The CMC has met monthly since January 2018 with an average attendance of 45 per cafe. Structured programming has included ice breaker exercises to encourage social engagement, chair yoga, scrapbooking and dance. Additional planned activities include art projects, lectures, music and live performance, Timeslips imagination exercises, and many others. Program evaluations reveal CMC participants enjoy meeting others, sharing similar experiences, trying something new, and spending time together.

To continue the tradition of making the community an integral part of the café, planning committee members meet bi-monthly to provide leadership, suggestions, and feedback. The logo for CMC was designed by one of our planning committee members, and the name was chosen in consultation with the planning committee.

The Chicago Memory Café (CMC) is held from 1:00-3:00 p.m. monthly on the 3rd Tuesday of each month (except in May, when we will meet on Wednesday).


Meeting Place:

Loyola University Chicago

Schreiber Center

16 East Pearson Street, 9th Fl

Wintrust Hall (Room 908)

Chicago, IL 60611


For more information and to register, please email:

For more information about other memory cafes in Illinois, please click here.


Last Updated on April 28, 2020

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