Memory Cafe opens Wednesday at Alpena Senior Citizens Center

News Photo by Darby Hinkley Alpena Senior Citizens Center Director Annie Hepburn, left, and Program Manager BJ Sander, right, model their Miles for Memories wristbands.

ALPENA — Seniors affected by dementia and their caregivers are invited to Spark A Connection Memory Cafe with a grand opening and ribbon cutting at 1 p.m. on Wednesday. The event will be held at Alpena Senior Citizens Center, 501 River St.

“The Memory Cafe is part of our grant that we got through the Michigan Health Endowment Fund,” said BJ Sander, program manager at the Alpena senior center. “Which is sparking all the other things that we’re doing right now, with the bracelets,” and more upcoming programs on dementia.

Miles for Memories are digital health identification bracelets that can help seniors and anyone with a health condition stay safe, as they store personal information that can be scanned for police or emergency personnel to access in a crisis situation.

Sander said the Memory Cafe will be open once a month, to start.

“The purpose of a Memory Cafe is not a support group,” Sander explained. “It’s a place where the person with the diagnosis and their loved one, and/or their caregiver … can go to for socialization, without judgment.”

She said the Spark A Connection Memory Cafe is a safe space for those with dementia and their loved ones.

“We’ve partnered with Justin from Art in the Loft,” Sander said of Art in the Loft Executive Director Justin Christensen-Cooper. “Justin will be doing an art project with everybody, when we start doing this.”

She said the first project on Wednesday will involve dementia-related words that Christensen-Cooper will write in artistic ways, and participants can color the words in using their own imaginations.

“So, that’s what we’re going to be doing, along with socialization,” Sander said. “It’s a lot like Staying Connected. When you put people in a positition where they’re doing fun things like that, they start talking, which is what we need them to do. We need them to talk. We need the people with dementia to be able to talk to the other people with dementia. We need the caregivers to be able to be around other caregivers who are caring for somebody with dementia.”

She added that future sessions may include cooking, more art projects, live music, exercises, and more.

“It’s a place for socialization and bringing everybody together,” said Annie Hepburn, senior center director. “We know that caregivers need support, but so do the people who are living with dementia.”

There will be snacks and refreshments available on Wednesday.

“We’re excited about it,” Sander said. “We’re hoping to get a great turnout. We’re hoping a lot of people from our support group will come out, especially to the first one. I think, if they come to the first one, they’re really going to enjoy it, and come back for more.”

Hepburn added that these events give those with dementia and their caregivers a chance to have fun together.

“Opportunities like this will educate all of us that, even though somebody is living with dementia, or a caregiver, they can still have fun,” Hepburn said.

She added that coming to the Spark A Connection Memory Cafe can help those with dementia gain confidence as they participate in artistic and creative projects with their caregivers and others with dementia.

Memory Cafe will be offered on the second Wednesday of the month, Sander said. If you have questions, call the senior center at 989-356-3585.


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