The Clinton-Macomb Public Library’s Memory Cafe lets seniors with dementia and their caretakers socialize every month.

The Clinton-Macomb Public Library’s Memory Cafe lets seniors with dementia and their caretakers socialize every month.

Photo provided by the Clinton-Macomb Public Library

Memory cafe keeps seniors with dementia social

By: Dean Vaglia | Fraser-Clinton Chronicle | Published October 3, 2023


CLINTON TOWNSHIP — When your loved ones have dementia, it can be challenging finding safe and meaningful things to do with them. But for about a year now, the Clinton-Macomb Public Library has provided a safe place for seniors with dementia and their caretakers to get out and socialize.

The CMPL’s Memory Cafe takes place every month, rotating between the main library on Romeo Plank Road and its southern branch on Gratiot Avenue.

“The Memory Cafe is a social opportunity for people with memory loss and their caregivers,” said Meghan Mott, the Clinton-Macomb Public Library’s adult services outreach manager. “We try to have something fun to do, whether that’s a craft or a musical guest, something informative (or) something tactile. We’ve planted seeds, we’ve made music as well as listened to music.”

Memory Cafe events tend to begin with staff introductions, the making of nametags and the headlining event. Once the main event or activity is completed, attendees are given time to talk with each other over coffee and refreshments.

For seniors, this means socializing and playing games together.

“We do something called TimeSlips where we make up stories with some of the seniors,” said Chris Wisswell, an adult services outreach librarian at the Clinton-Macomb Public Library. “Instead of remembering things from the past, we create stories based on what they’re thinking now — and some get pretty hysterical.”

The events give caretakers a chance to socialize with each other and see the seniors in their care like they once were.

“I think the caretakers really appreciate the opportunity to come out,” Mott said. “I’ve had people write down, ‘Thank you for talking to my dad. Dementia has stolen his life.’ I think (that) is what she said. … For the caregivers, it’s that source of connection and the opportunity to see their loved ones as a person again who can enjoy things instead of being limited by the things they can no longer do.”

The CMPL is not the first library to put together a program for seniors with dementia. Mott picked up the idea from a conference in 2021 where similar programs in other states were highlighted.

“It was a combination of hearing about it from other libraries, seeing what is available — or not (available) — in this area and then we also did some training with the Alzheimer’s Association to get us oriented to this population and how interacting with them and caregivers might (go),” Mott said. “I wouldn’t say (the program) requires specialized knowledge, but it’s a little different than running a program for the general public.”

Mott says the program is the only one of its kind in Macomb County, and that the Rochester Hills Public Library runs a program in Oakland County.

As the program nears its one-year anniversary in January 2024, Mott expects the program will continue in the future. The Memory Cafe may expand north into the CMPL’s Macomb Township branch, but that all depends on if enough people from the township attend the current programs. Though registration is not required for Memory Cafe events, attendees are asked to take surveys which could let library staff know where they are coming from.

“We know that this area has an aging population,” Mott said. “It is not like this problem is going to go away. People with a dementia diagnosis don’t get better; you can slow the disease, but we can’t fix it yet. We just want to be ready to meet people where they are.”

The CMPL Memory Cafe meets on the first Thursday of each month from 10 a.m. until noon. The Oct. 5 event will be at the South Branch meeting room, while the Nov. 2 event will be at the main library’s Brennan Meeting Room. For more information, visit