Brewing bonds

Twining Village opens Memory Café to the public, offering social setting for those with memory loss

By Samantha Bambino

The Times

Twining Village’s Memory Café isn’t your average Starbucks. Yes, there are lattes and pastries, but it’s so much more than a coffee shop — it’s a place where people with Alzheimer’s, dementia and other forms of memory loss, along with their caregivers, can socialize in a comfortable, non-judgmental environment.

Beyond the caffeine: Twining Village’s Memory Café not only has coffee and desserts, but sing alongs, crafts and trivia. Photo: Twining Village

Memory Café started last fall as a resident-only opportunity for the 10–15 seniors suffering from memory loss at the retirement community in Holland. Because of the great success it had among these residents, the staff expanded the program beyond the walls of Twining Village to reach more people who need it, and debuted it to the public on July 18.

Just like any other chain coffee shop, the public can come in beginning at 10 a.m. to enjoy coffee, danish and other refreshments. For the first 30 minutes, guests can simply enjoy the relaxed setting and acclimate themselves to the environment. Starting at 10:30 a.m. and ending at noon, engaging activities take place such as a sing along, trivia, crafts, adult coloring and exercises led by a wellness coordinator.

“The Memory Café is a brief time to leave worries at home and simply enjoy yourself,” said Beverly Gowton, director of community life and transportation at Twining Village.

The idea behind this specialized café originated in the 1980s in the Netherlands when psychologist Dr. Bere Miesen noticed his patients with memory loss were suffering from lack of social interaction. Once he created this common space for them to interact and bond with each other, he saw vast improvements in their health. In 2008, his creation made its way overseas, and cafés began to pop up around the United States.

According to Gowton, Memory Café provides a safe place for locals with memory loss to be away from the public eye, even for just a few hours. When someone is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or dementia, they tend to stay at home to avoid judgment if they repeat themselves at a restaurant or forget something in a store. At the café, they and their caregiver can meet and be around people in similar situations.

“The bonds forged in memory cafés … often are long-lasting, offering additional support for participants,” said village chaplain the Rev. Erin Maurer.

The program is by no means a support group or educational session where guests need to stand up and talk about themselves and their feelings, and they can participate in as many or as little activities as they feel comfortable.

“It’s a nice, warm place just for socialization,” Gowton said.

The café also promotes the normalization of life, giving attendees the chance to come out of their shell and feel like themselves again. For Gowton, the program and what attendees are experiencing truly hits home since her grandfather suffered from memory loss. Someone may have this disease, but the person they were and still are is in there.

“Nobody here would look at him like he’s odd,” she said.

Memory Café will be open the third Tuesday of each month from 10 a.m. to noon. Attendance is free. Twining Village is located at 280 Middle Holland Road, Holland. For more information, contact Gowton or Maurer at 215–396–7150.

Samantha Bambino can be reached at