LOS ANGELES – Doug and Connie Moore met at seminary. He was a student and pastor of an inner-city congregation, and she was a student and a public health nurse. “She’s the one who drew me to the needs of the poor,” Doug says.
The pair wed in 1974, and Doug became a pastor at the First Evangelical Free Church of Los Angeles in 1983. They became deeply involved in their community and dedicated much of their free time to teaching English as a second language, creating tutoring programs and mentoring students in poor communities here and abroad.
But these days, the retired couple spends most of their time inside their modest two-bedroom apartment in Los Angeles. “There are a lot of hours spent alone,” says Doug, 69. “I can’t have a conversation with Connie.”
Connie, now 73, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, the most common form of dementia, in 2015. About 10% of Americans age 65 or older have the disease, according to the Alzheimer’s Association, including an estimated 670,000 people in California.
Doug, Connie’s primary caregiver, knows his wife needs as much stimulation as possible. So, twice a month, the Moores visit a program often referred to as a “Memory Cafe,” which offers social activities for people living with Alzheimer’s and dementia — and their caregivers. Activities include art, music, poetry, presentations and social interaction.
There are more than 800 regular gatherings around the country listed in the Memory Cafe directory, including more than 20 in California. Some meetings go by different names such as “Memory Mornings” and aren’t listed in the directory. The gatherings take place in coffee shops, hospitals, libraries, schools, senior centers and faith-based organizations. Free of charge to participants, the cafes are usually funded by grants, individuals, corporate sponsorships or faith-based organizations.
“Participating in social activities does not just provide social and cognitive stimulation for both the caregiver and the loved one, but they give each the opportunity to create new social groups for themselves with people who understand their situation,” said Susan Howland, programs director for the Alzheimer’s Association California Southland Chapter.