One of the most difficult aspects of starting a memory café can be getting the word out to the people who would benefit most from social connection—those who have become isolated from their communities and those who have other significant barriers to connection such as cultural differences or being a non-native speaker.
What is the best way to reach these individuals?
I am hearing from café organizers that outreach needs to be an active and ongoing process. When the café is just starting up, have the expectation that attendance may be low for several months, and try to persevere! Several organizers have said that a good local newspaper article about their memory café has been one of the most successful ways to reach people in need. Word of mouth also appears to be key to these grassroots driven programs. In addition, establishing personal connections with other community-based organizations or local leaders can help cultivate trust and lend credibility to the new café.
Below is a more specific list of the types of organizations to contact in your community with information about your memory café [This list is a compilation of ideas from Carole Larkin’s Memory Café Toolkit, a Cornwall UK guidance on setting up a memory café by Sue McDermott, and my own research]:
- Regional or neighborhood newspapers
- Local radio or TV stations
- Community centers
- Senior centers
- Religious centers
- Adult day programs
- Dementia support groups
- Caregiver advocacy groups
- YMCAs with programs for older adults
- Public libraries
- Rotary clubs
- Meals On Wheels
- Other volunteer organizations
- Local Village movement
- Independent living or assisted living facilities
- Senior interest groups
- Area Agency on Aging
- Local chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association
- Geriatric care managers and social workers
- Community health centers
- Neurologists who diagnose and treat dementia
- Family physicians
- Memory clinics
- Online calendar services (e.g. local Alzheimer’s Association Calendar, Craigslist Activities Board)
- Any other organizations in your area connected to older adults
The question of how to reach ethnically or culturally diverse populations and overcome language barriers is more complex. In addition to outreach strategies, the program itself will need to have a level of cultural competency that encourages attendance over the long term.
A very helpful resource in this regard is the book entitled Ethnicity and the Dementias, Edited by Gwen Yeo and Dolores Gallagher-Thompson. In the chapter on outreach they summarize lessons learned from two decades of research addressing how community-based organizations can more effectively reach people dealing with memory loss in ethnically diverse communities. Below is an abridged summary:
1. Recruit bilingual and bicultural staff/volunteers for outreach and program delivery
2. Provide ongoing diversity training at all levels of the organization
3. Utilize linguistically and culturally appropriate tools and materials
4. Understand cultural attitudes, beliefs, and values about dementia
5. Launch a media campaign (using appropriate language and ethnic media)
6. Identify potential community partners
7. Offer in-service training and community orientations (for staff and community education)
8. Build dementia care capacity with key providers (established, trusted, interested collaborators)
9. Involve the community
10. Deliver on the promise to serve
[Edgerly, E. S., & Sullivan, T. (2006). Reaching Diverse Caregiving Families Through Community Partnerships. In G. Yeo & D. Gallagher-Thompson (Eds.), Ethnicity and the Dementias (2nd ed.). New York: Routledge.]
Because memory cafés are low-budget, often volunteer-run organizations, these recommendations may need to be adapted somewhat. For example, instead of a formal in-service training, one option would be to invite someone from the community who is knowledgeable about specific ethnic perceptions of dementia to speak with volunteers for 30 minutes following a scheduled memory café gathering.
Successful outreach clearly involves awareness, partnership, creativity and persistence. Do you have an outreach success story or need advice on this issue? Please share your insights/questions by adding a comment below or starting a thread in the discussion forum.