'There's still lots that we can do'


The Johnston Senior Center, in conjunction with Briarcliffe Manor and Dementia Training for Life, held a ribbon-cutting ceremony Tuesday morning to officially open the eighth Memory Café in the state.

Briarcliffe CEO Akshay Talwar, Dementia Training for Life founder and CEO Laurie Gunter Mantz and Mayor Joseph Polisena were among those in attendance to celebrate the occasion. Mantz said the concept of memory cafés – a social gathering she said is designed to engage and intellectually stimulate those with cognitive impairment along with their care partners – began in the Netherlands two decades ago.

“It was seen as an opportunity for people that are dealing with a cognitive impairment – we don’t talk about the diseases specifically – and their care partners to get together to socialize, engage, because research is now showing us that we can actually improve our brain function well into our 90s with social engagement, intellectual stimulation, exercise, as well as diet and sleep,” Mantz said.

Mantz said that every café is different, but all focus on sharing skills and concepts through a conversation designed to include both those who have been diagnosed and their caregivers. As an example, she noted that the Providence café has decided on an arts and crafts activity for its next meeting.

The Johnston Memory Café will meet the second Tuesday of every month from 1-2:30 p.m., and the first meeting was held shortly after the ribbon fell. While topics of conversation may differ each time, it’s guaranteed to be an enjoyable experience that offers support to all parties.

“We have a lot of fun, we laugh, we enjoy each other’s company,” Mantz said. “Sometimes we do crafts, sometimes we do music, sometimes we play games. There’s always a little bit of support in there because you get to meet somebody else that’s on the same path as you.”

Mantz said wants to “tap into people’s abilities as opposed to the disabilities” in order to combat memory loss. The café received the full support of JSC officials – such as Director Tony Zompa – and Talwar and Polisena as well.

“Our hope is to reach out to the community and get more and more people out of their homes and socially engaged so that they can see that, even though we’re dealing with a degenerative disease, there’s still lots that we can do,” Mantz said.


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