Reap the Health Benefits from the MACS’ Memory Lane Café

The Harvard Medical School claims that social connections don’t just give us pleasure, they influence our long-term health just as much as good sleep and diet would. Satisfying relationships with family, friends and community brings life-enhancing benefits: higher levels of well-being, improved health and longevity.

As it would happen, MACS’ vision had worked this out—“where there is confidence in aged care, where cultural diversity is truly celebrated and family and community remain connected.”

Amongst the great variety of social engagement at MACS, though, is the social support mode of the Memory Lane Café. The overall aim of café style support is to enhance emotional wellbeing, support the care relationship and minimise social isolation for  those living in the community.  The café offers a holistic approach to supporting participants’ physical, mental and emotional health and wellbeing.

The Australian government funds this Café Style Support Program. And in association with Dementia Australia Victoria, (formerly Alzheimer’s Australia), it supports people with dementia and their family members/ carers to enjoy precious time together in the company of people in a similar situation to themselves.

The Memory Lane Café is a great example of how Dementia Australia makes a difference to the lives of those impacted by dementia. Since 2003 over 5,000 guests attended its Memory Lane cafés in Geelong. They claim to have a loyal following, with people returning time and time again. The best part is that these cafés provide reassurance to people living with dementia that they are not alone. They are safe places to be, where stigma doesn’t exist and people feel free to be themselves.

For carers, (a spouse, or partner, family member or friend), as well as the person who lives with dementia, there’ll always be someone there at the café they can engage with. Some groups come from different cultures and eagerly share common views and experiences. At MACS some are brought in by their home carers.  And it would seem that those who attend come away with the warmth of a positive social experience and even connect with friends they once knew.  At MACS, a group had even reconnected after many decades apart and now keep meeting no matter what.

Remembering times past with others is not only a pleasant thing to do but it stimulates the mind, helps give perspective, even a sense of identity. Recall of accomplishments gives meaning to our lives. It’s no wonder that reminiscing can be an important tool for socialization. Sharing life history—who we are and have been, where we have lived, who is important in our lives are all elicit self-worth.

The café is held in the MACS’ chapel every six weeks between 1.30pm-3pm. Groups natter around elegantly draped tables in an airy, expansive space. There’s easy access to attend coming in through the picturesque piazza and into the chapel. Those in wheelchairs or who have walking aids soon discover this is a stress-free environment where they can easily move around to socialise.  Tables and seating allow for comfort, ease of sitting and standing and easy communication.




Then there’s the signature MACS’ afternoon tea. Tempting morsels guaranteed. And always abounding is some form of disarming entertainment such as Ben Costanza singing favourites on piano and piano accordion. The strong sense of togetherness and sheer enjoyment is real.

It’s the feel-good experience that’s a far cry from attending a day centre. It’s a matter of still letting the twinkle happen in your wrinkle here at MACS.

The importance of communication here can’t be understated. There are no demands or judgements; everyone is treated with respect and courtesy.  There’s plenty of time to allow people to settle into their MACS’ environment and with each other, enabling peer relationships. This is crucial for a multicultural café such as MACS.

At the MACS’ café, Dementia Australia Vic counselling staff, trained volunteers, MACS’ home carers and the wellbeing coordinator, Lyn McCarter attend. Apart from the welcoming chat, Lyn and Dementia Australia Vic members give face-to-face, one on-one expert health and service information to participants. They work to nurture and develop participants’ confidence to independently engage with service systems should they need it.





It may well be that family/carers feel more comfortable with this type of respite. For one thing, the person with dementia may become restless or agitated in other social environments that are not as relaxing and enjoyable. So it could be argued that a dementia café actually strengthens the carer relationship as it clearly supports precious time together.

Dementia Australia Vic and MACS would love for you to join us at our Multicultural Memory Lane Café Program. All multicultural groups in the Geelong area are most welcome. To enquire whether this event is suitable for you or your loved one, you can call us at MACS on 1300 622 778.


Resources and Contacts

Dementia Australia, Geelong (Barwon South West region)
1/318 Pakington Street
Newtown Vic 3220

Postal address: PO Box 8136, Newtown, Vic 3220

Phone: 1800 100 500
Fax: (03) 5221 8160é

Sara Honn Qualls

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