I have kept my eye on all the listings over the last four years, searching memory cafes around the nation, and still, Mississippi comes up missing. The tool kit offered by Third Age Services makes it extraordinarily easy for someone to create one, just as individuals have done in the Netherlands since 1997, in the UK since 2000, and then U.S. since 2008.
The National Registry of Alzheimer’s Cafes does not include Mississippi … yet the state is ranked among the best places to retire. The 2016 ranking includes such factors as affordable homes, lower tax burden, favorable climate, and active retirement communities. The Alzheimer’s Association reports as many as 1-in-9 Americans over 65 are likely to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or other type of dementia. Moreover, the 85-years-and-older population already make up about 2 million of those living with Alzheimer’s disease.
More than 15 million care-partners are unpaid and overworked, amounting to an estimated 17.9 billion hours of round-the-clock service in love. According to Alzheimers.net the number of care unit beds is 1,245 in Mississippi. More than 55,000 individuals with the disease live in the state. That tells me, there are a whole lot of folks being cared for at home. The need for community support is urgent around the nation, and certainly in places ranked best places to retire. Florida is in the line-up, too. Yet, the four memory cafes we’ve been operating since 2013 are among only a handful in the sunshine state.
While my mother was still able to attend the gatherings, I shared 6 tips for creating the ultimate memory cafe experience. Giving families a comfortable place in the community – immersed in the arts – with fully engaged support is not rocket science. It is simply a matter of commitment to care. Commitment to those who can no longer go to the usual places, yet still desire to get out in the community; commitment to those who are doing daily round-the-clock caregiving; commitment to show the next generation what it is to volunteer and experience the incredible difference it makes. There is a window of opportunity to enjoy outings; we must not let it close while our loved ones still possess the capacity to be part of their larger community, in some way.
Hope is the most essential tool in any journey. It is an anchor that gets you through the tough, dark times, and an opportunity to nurture and celebrate one another in challenging times. That describes the core of memory cafes; doing, helping, and loving others through it. So, as I continue monitoring the map of “culture change” it gives me hope to know that the Green House project was born in Tupelo, Mississippi. There, care is delivered based on Eden principles developed by Dr. William Thomas. Residents are describing the environments as being “like home” and “heaven on earth.”
Who’s willing to step up and create the next safe place to remember? Yes, the arts have a way of bringing out long tucked away memories. Mississippi needs a place (or two or three or more) to bring caregivers and loved ones together. A place to park worries at the door and immerse in food, fun, and fellowship – a place where the arts are experienced table-side. Any volunteers?
Explore what we do and why we do it at neighborhood memory cafes here. Get in touch and we’ll help you get started in Mississippi, or anywhere else on the map.