Volunteers Critical to Success of Memory Cafes

One of the examples of dementia community supports mentioned in our newest brochure, Living Well With Dementia in the Community: Resources and Supports, is memory cafés. We've gathered great tools to get your agency started.

In recent years, memory cafés have become increasingly popular throughout the U.S., and are now widely recognized as a dementia-friendly community resource.

Although memory cafés may look different in every city, they provide a relaxed environment where people with dementia, as well as their care providers and family, can receive support. Memory cafés may take place in a variety of venues including churches, libraries and community centers. Additionally, each memory café may provide individuals with various activities including games, karaoke or painting. Regardless of the location or the activity, the central focus of memory cafés is on positive social interaction, which is essential for brain health.

In the U.S., memory cafés are primarily sponsored by grassroots organizations, and are often organized and run by experienced volunteers. These volunteers are instrumental in not only planning and facilitating the activities, but in supporting the caregivers as well. In Wisconsin, volunteers played a role in three memory cafés sponsored by the Waushara County Department of Aging. “Volunteers have taken a leadership role in making memory cafés happen,” said Debbie Paavola from the Waushara County Department of Aging. “They did lots of research first and have even established their own set of best practices to guide future cafés.”

One of the volunteer-led activities incorporates large portraits, where attendees are encouraged to call out “what they see, and what they remember.” Other activities facilitated by the volunteers support physical functioning such as holiday-themed craft activities, sing-a-longs and puzzles. While the volunteers are ardently involved in every step of the planning and facilitation, the main concern is ensuring that all who attend are comfortable at all times, and are able to relax and enjoy the event without stigma.

The Waushara County Department of Aging recruited some of the volunteers using the Aging Network Volunteer Resource Center's Power Up! model of self-directed volunteer teams, while others were recruited through programs such as Powerful Tools for Caregivers. Are you ready to get started? Here are tips on involving volunteers in your community's memory cafes:

Resources with Information about Volunteers:
Additional Information:



USAging Fact: Learn about your peers’ work—and how it can fit into your agency’s goals! The AIA Awards recognizes successful and innovative programs that USAging members have developed to serve older adults. Get inspiration from our 2023 winners!