Profile: Memory Cafés/Conversation Cafés

Memory Cafés/Conversation Cafés are safe and social gathering places where those impacted by dementia can get out socially, share memories and experiences, and make new friendships and support groups over a comforting beverage. The purpose of the café is to offer caregivers of those with dementia an opportunity for their loved one to socialize, while also offering the chance for caregivers to network with other caregivers. Memory Cafés/Conversation Cafés have been initiated with success in both pilot communities of Calgary Westhills and the Town of Okotoks.

First Lutheran Church Dementia Awareness and Conversation Cafés

“As a missional organization, First Lutheran Church (FLC) became involved in the Dementia Friendly Communities Westhills pilot project to extend our support to an ever-growing population within our own faith community, and the greater community. We saw that people needed access to more information and education to increase awareness about dementia. We also saw that those affected by dementia needed an opportunity to gather and share the journey with others in similar situations.”

~ Liz Gahan, Ministry Coordinator

FLC initiated dementia awareness training for staff, hosted a resource fair open house event for the general public, and a local business gathering event for neighbouring organizations to help increase awareness about dementia and the Dementia Friendly Communities pilot project. We also had great success with establishing our Conversation Café, offered two times every month, supported by grant funding that we successfully applied for to sustain the initiative. These cafés are non-denominational and open to all who are impacted by dementia in some way. There has been a lot of interest from others in the faith community who are keen to set up their own Memory Café/Conversation Café, e.g., FCJ Christian Life Centre held one in September 2018, and the First Baptist Church now also hold a regular Conversation Café.

Due to the demand we saw from others seeking support in how to increase awareness of dementia, we proactively sought out additional grant funding to help create a dementia awareness eLearning course. This online learning resource is intended to support and inspire others, developed in partnership with BSF to supplement this Guide to Creating Dementia Friendly Communities. You can find this eLearning module online at:

‘In the Moment’ Okotoks Memory Café

Motivated by a dear friend recently diagnosed with dementia, Joyce Landis became an active member of the Memory Café planning committee that took the idea of a ‘Memory Café’ and brought it to fruition in Okotoks. Joyce’s husband, Ray, has also joined the Memory Café volunteer crew and his listening ear is so welcome, especially
for our male attendees.

“For me, personally, I have always truly believed that when onegives of themselves in an effort to be of service to the well-being of the community, or to individuals, or to a particular cause, in return, they always receive far more benefits than what they have given. It is my joy and pleasure to serve in this capacity." 

~ Joyce Landis

“In the Moment” Memory Cafés are hosted on the first Wednesday of the month at the Okotoks Seniors Club. A community donor stepped forward to provide refreshments for the first year of cafés, and the Seniors Club has agreed to continue to host the cafés (providing the refreshments and supplies) with the assistance of Dementia Friendly Communities volunteers. Promoting inclusion, we are partnering with the Foothills Advocacy in Motion Society to provide opportunities for those with developmental disabilities to gain work experience through serving guests at the café.

“This is an example of the power of community partnerships. The ability to branch out beyond our core programs and services has been well received. Our goal as a club is to offer a welcoming experience for all seniors, and this is one example of how we have engaged community supports to increase the services offered to the community, beyond just membership in the club, while maintaining our goal of a welcoming experience for all.”

~ Ed Thom, President of the Okotoks and District Seniors Club


“As a caregiver to my wife Joan, I have found that all of the functions, presentations, activities and outings that have been undertaken in the DFC project have been important. The Memory Café events are especially important as they provide a comfortable and dementia friendly social event for both the caregiver and the person with dementia, in a safe place where one can share ideas and feelings while not feeling inhibited because of any stigma related to dementia. The Memory Café events also provide a sort of caregiver support group environment where the person with dementia can also interact without feeling left out of the conversation or the event, while the caregiver can be involved in more in-depth conversations. As a community activity, the Memory Café is a valuable asset to continue providing social opportunities for those affected by dementia."

~ Alan Rae, Family Caregiver