New café supporting people with dementia opens in Darlington

published on 15 Apr 2024

An activity café offering support to people affected by dementia and their carers is launching at The Salvation Army in Darlington. 

Memory Lane Activity Café, hosted by the church and charity and home care providers Home Instead, will provide a safe and friendly environment for people with memory loss issues along with their carers, as well as a range of activities like singing, armchair exercises, crafts and games. 

The sessions, which will take place every third Thursday of the month between 10.30am and 12.30pm, will officially launch on Thursday 18 April with special guest the Mayor of Darlington Cllr Jan Cossins, music from Reid Street Primary School Dementia Friendly Choir and an information stand from Alzheimer’s Society.

Major Shirley McKenzie, who leads Darlington Citadel Salvation Army, said: “The aim of the Memory Lane Activity Café is to offer a safe environment for folk with dementia or memory loss issues, a chance for them to relax, enjoy themselves, feel supported and encouraged. 

Darlington Salvation Army memory cafe

“Research shows activities like singing can help reduce anxiety and depression, enhance quality of life and help with memory. We want people to have fun and join in with as much or as little as they wish, but we hope they leave with a smile on their faces.

“We also want to provide an environment for carers to relax, have a break and meet other carers. Dementia can be a very isolating condition so we hope that bringing people together will help those who are living with it themselves or because they are caring for someone who is.

“We have a good relationship with Home Instead, they are a wonderful organisation so we’re really pleased to be teaming up with them for Memory Lane Activity Café. Between us we have lots of ideas for future sessions so we are very much looking forward to seeing the café develop.”

Joanne Hendry, Community Engagement Officer for Home Instead, said “Our dedicated team provide specialist support for many people living with dementia and we wanted to provide the local community with a regular event where those living with dementia, and their loved ones, can relax and socialise and take part in some stimulating activities. It’s such an important part of helping make Darlington dementia inclusive. We are delighted to be working in partnership with The Salvation Army and hope that people will attend the activity café again and again.

Research shows activities like singing can help reduce anxiety and depression, enhance quality of life and help with memory.
Major Shirley McKenzie

“We will have a range of games, arts, crafts and activities like armchair exercise, nostalgic movies, pet therapy, hand massage, singing. We will also have memory boxes, which are provided by Darlington Library and contain newspaper clippings and reminders of things from decades past to help prompt memories.”

It is also being supported by Darlington Borough Council’s Move More Scheme, who are providing armchair exercises, and there are plans to work with more groups in the community such as local colleges to help raise awareness of dementia. 

The grand opening will take place on Thursday 18 April between 10.30am and 12.30pm at The Salvation Army in Thompson Street East, then the café will run every third Thursday after that. Sessions cost £3 and are free for carers. 

Darlington Citadel Salvation Army runs a number of weekly activities including a Connect group, bible study, community choir, lunch club, foodbank and coffee morning. For more information on Memory Lane Activity Café phone 07513 723302. 


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