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Memory Cafe Comes to Lunenburg

October 10, 2018

LUNENBURG -- A new program at the senior center pairs breakfast and activities to offer a comfortable environment for people living with dementia.

The Memory Cafe began Sept. 28 and will run the last Friday of every month. It comes with a free continental breakfast and is open to town residents and those in the area.

“There’s a big movement going on about dementia-friendly communities,” said Eagle House Senior Community Center Director Susan Doherty. “We’re trying to get Lunenburg in that direction.”

Facilitator Keith Lanzilotti said the main goal of the program is to give guests social interaction.

“It’s educating and helps them reminisce,” he said. “Depending on their level of cognitive impairment, they may not remember what activities they like.”

A year’s worth of programming -- which included a visit from Newfoundland therapy dog Benjamin Franklin -- has been planned for the cafe. Lanzilotti, who helped planned the activities, said to expect a beekeeper, guitarist, and trips in the area.

With the first breakfast, Doherty said she didn’t know what to expect. She was pleased to see 15 guests and how they laughed and talked.

A Council on Aging board member who volunteered at the Memory Cafe told Doherty about a man who attended with his wife who has dementia. He told the member it’s the first time he’s seen her happy and smiling in months.

“It’s what two hours in a different environment like this can do,” Lanzilotti said.

In addition to providing activities, the cafe is also about spreading awareness about the dementia and addressing stigma associated with it, he said.

The idea to start a Memory Cafe in Lunenburg came after Doherty and Lanzilotti visited one in Bedford.

“I was immediately sold,” she said. “I didn’t want to jump into that and not be able to commit to it.”

To help get the program started, the Eagle House Supporters, a nonprofit fundraising group for the senior, contributed $3,000, Doherty said. She has applied for grant money and is asking for private donations to help sustain the program.

“I don’t think there’s enough out there for people,” Doherty said. ”... having a good support service and knowing where to go in the community can help.”

The Memory Cafe concept started in Europe and has spread throughout the United States. There are nearly 90 memory cafes in Massachusetts, including one in Leominster.

Follow Mina on Twitter @mlcorpuz.

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