Why I set up a Memory Cafe: the student with the grand plan

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We chat with Ellie Robinson Carter who, as a student set up Penryn Memory Cafe.

Why did you decide to set up Penryn Memory Cafe?

As a student at York University I led a memory café for people living with dementia in the local area. This came about when I lost my grandfather to dementia; I sought to understand his journey, and help others whose lives were also affected by dementia. On moving to Penryn, to study for my MA I wanted to continue volunteering with people living with dementia. Although Falmouth (a nearby town) had a memory cafe, I was aware that some people living with dementia would find that distance challenging, and it wouldn’t be a possibility for everyone.

I wanted to create a memory cafe that was rooted in the students at university, as a way of bridging the inter-generational gaps in the community as well as create a social space where students could support those living with dementia in their local community.

As well as being a brilliant resource for people living with dementia, it also provides students with a deeper relationship to the place they are studying, which I believe can be pivotal to their experience of living away from home whilst at university.

What sort of activities do you do?

Activities range from singing and dancing, to making hot cross buns and flower arranging. We make sure that these activities are chosen by our attendees and come from them: after all, it is their group we are facilitating. We are currently developing an outside space at the cafe which is providing us with the opportunity to introduce a whole new host of activities: we are making objects for the space, writing nature poetry and will soon be potting plants for the outside space. The idea behind this project is to encourage the attendees to engage in nature and nurture a space they can use and share with others in the community.

Who comes along to the memory cafe?

Both people with dementia and their carers come along: the memory cafe is there to provide support for those whose lives are affected by dementia. The nature of the group means that, as well as those with dementia sharing in a supportive, friendly and fun event, carers are alleviated from their role for a couple of hours, which is just as important.

and finally….what sort of benefits do you see in people attending your memory cafe? 

As the group has developed over the last year, they have formed very special relationships with one another. The group often express how much they enjoy coming and say that they always feel better for it. The group often have moments where they are laughing, dancing, singing and letting their hair down together – this is often initiated by one lady who gets everyone out of their chairs! At the memory cafe, people live well with their dementia, which is the best possible outcome!

Some of the members of Penryn Memory cafe

Penryn Memory Cafe meets every first and third Thursday of the month, 2-4pm at Penryn Methodist Church. find out more.

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