Dementia Café: A place to belong

June 2019

The Dementia Café is a brilliant concept! It’s a safe and friendly environment for people living with dementia and their care partners. It is not a respite program, but rather a happy place for meeting and socializing.

It takes place at Urban Abbey, 308 Red River Road, three Sunday afternoons a month from 2-4 pm. Over the summer the café will be held on July 7, 21 and on August 25.

To get some insight on what the Dementia Café is all about, I met with Elaine Wiersma, the director of CERAH, Centre for Education and Research on Aging and Health, one of the partners of the Dementia Café, and David Glover, a volunteer and member of the advisory committee as well as a care partner. With great passion and enthusiasm, they explained to me how the Dementia Café creatively satisfies a vital need in our community.

Let’s say you are a care partner and you are looking for experiences that will stimulate the person you are caring for and support you in your journey as well. The Dementia Café fits that bill perfectly! All you have to do is show up! You will be directed at every point along the way. A greeter will help you with coats and registration. You will be shown to a table and served coffee along with delicious pastries from the Urban Abbey coffee shop, The Habit. Each table will have a table host who will encourage everyone to chit chat and start to connect. It is an easy going environment that fosters new relationships for everyone.

Sometimes there will be local musical entertainment or perhaps art or games. The day I attended there was some sewing going on along with conversations that were full of smiles and laughter. What a relief to be in a totally accepting place for the person living with dementia and the care partner too. There is no stigma here in this inclusive and private environment .

It’s a wonderful opportunity to get out of your home, your normal space, which can be an isolating place for everyone involved and enter into an afternoon of stimulation that brings everyone to a different mental state. Every bit of help is beneficial on this journey. How reassuring and healing it is to know that you are not alone.

The happy ambience of the venue at Urban Abbey really does make the participants feel that this is truly a place to belong.

Two other partners join with CERAH in making the Dementia Café such a success: the Alzheimer Society of Thunder Bay and the Urban Abbey. In order to grow, donations are always welcomed. Your time or talent might be how you choose to donate by being a volunteer at the Dementia Café .

Contact Elaine Wiersma at if you would like more information or would like to volunteer.

Elaine summed up the glow that I felt when I spent a Sunday afternoon at the Dementia Café: “It’s the highlight of my week. It makes me feel happy seeing people with smiles on their faces and making new friends. You couldn’t ask for anything better than that.”

The dates for the fall and early winter are: September 8, 15, 22, October 6, 20, 27, November 3, 10, 17 and December 1, 8, 15. Come and experience the supportive happiness of the Dementia Café.

Karen Christie is a retired high school teacher and a regular contributor to Bayview. She can be reached at

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