Dementia out in the open

The Memory Café in Hout Bay.

Hout Bay’s Memory Café wants to change perceptions about dementia and offer a safe space for those with the illness.

Rayne Strobel, a PhD candidate in Dementia Studies, came up with the idea. He is also the founder and managing director of Geratec, a company that provides support services to long-term care facilities.

Memory Café is about bringing dementia out of the closet and making public spaces more inclusive, says Mr Strobel.

“So many people living with dementia become increasingly lonely and helpless. They are tucked away somewhere, as if they have leprosy.”

The café has no physical address but is a meeting place where people can share ideas, chat and enjoy themselves in an intimate setting.

During the first two café sessions at Black and Brew coffee shop, Mr Strobel was accompanied by Laurie Scherrer and Brian van Buren from Dementia Action Alliance, an American-based NGO.

Mr Van Buren, a flight attendant before his dementia diagnosis, said every day came with a challenge.

“I lose things, forget what I said, and once I discovered I bought four televisions by accident,” he said.

Ms Scherrer was an energetic banking executive before she was diagnosed at 55.

The back of her business card says, “Please be patient with me, I have dementia and may repeat questions, forget what you have told me and take longer to make a decision.”

According to the World Health Organisation, there are about 47 million people living with dementia worldwide, and the number is projected to grow to 75 million by 2030.

Mr Strobel hopes to extend his concept to other communities soon.

The next sessions will be held at Delish on Beach Crescent Road, on Tuesday April 23 and Thursday May 9, from 9.30am to 11am.