Just over a year ago from a train journey to a conference in Birmingham came the start of the Milton Keynes Memory Café. We never imagined from those early conversations that a year on the café would have gone from strength to strength. We were worried initially whether people would come; we wanted to make it accessible to all and be a safe, fun and caring environment, all of which we have succeeded in.
We run the café with a fantastic group of volunteers who are invaluable and bring such individual strengths to the sessions.
During the time the café has been running we have seen the number of people attend grow. We have a real mix of people who attend all with their own unique stories; people we support and friends from local services and staff from across MacIntyre and people from our local communities.
One gentleman’s story, who attended from the start, really emphasises what the café is about. He was worried initially about attending; worried that he would not remember people’s names and he would be embarrassed that he wouldn’t remember things. We took the time to make him feel welcome and to find out what interests he had. He likes racing and the horses so we promised that the next time he came we would have a copy of the Racing Post so he could pick us a horse to have a bet on. We carried out our promise and each month there’s always a copy of this for him to enjoy. We always give him time to chat and his wife the opportunity to have a cup of tea and meet with friends. His wife said that the café is the highlight in their month and looks forward to seeing us all.
The café has had great sessions. They have ranged from a performance from Bucks male voice choir, times to create and get arty, animal therapy, supporting other charities with cake mornings and always making time for a game of our very popular bingo.
We spend time finding out what people’s interests are and do our best to include these throughout the year.
When we have music at the Memory Café it has such a positive impact and seems to bring everyone together and there’s a sudden feeling of energy throughout the group. This month we were joined by MacIntyre’s music group who came with a great selection of songs which included everyone’s tastes and we hoped people would join in for a sing-a-long, which we are happy to tell you they did. Before long everyone was singing, swaying and dancing with some great moves.
The song “You will never walk alone” came on and instantly without prompting, people were holding hands, arms around each other. The sense of togetherness was so strong and witnessing this was very emotional.
The most noticeable thing is how the café has encouraged friendships; people who were once strangers but are now friends.
The Memory Café has no barriers and welcomes everyone that turns up with a smile and warmest welcome. We hope that we continue to grow and provide this support for people and who knows maybe one day we will need a bigger venue.
Sadie Scott – Area Manager, Milton Keynes
Nicola Payne – Dementia Project Officer