Welcome to the Conversation Café

Alan Rae and Joan Connor at 1918 Tap and Table in Calgary.

Alan Rae and Joan Connor at 1918 Tap and Table in Calgary.

Joan Connor and her husband, Alan Rae, are enjoying a beverage and a bite to eat at the 1918 Tap and Table, the bright and spacious restaurant in the new Legion building located in Kensington. They’re seated among several other smiling people and, occasionally, Rae will lean over and share a friendly word with folks sitting at adjacent tables. 

To an outsider, it looks like any gathering of seniors with a few younger family members — perhaps an annual social for a community group. One certainly wouldn’t guess that many of the people deep in conversation at these tables are meeting for the very first time. They are here, together, as part of the Conversation Café. 

A cross between a casual support group and a social gathering, the Conversation Café event was recently introduced to Calgary by Connor and Rae, who first attended a similar gathering three years ago while on vacation in Palm Desert, California. Connor was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s five years ago, but both she and Rae remain active and social. The chance to chat and develop friendships with other people who are experiencing dementia, either first-hand or as a caregiver, was something they wanted to share back home in Calgary. And, with the help and support of Dementia Network Calgary Coordinator Kim Brundrit, Conversation Café became a reality.

“It’s a chance to get out to meet other people and find out what other people are doing,” Connor says. 

“The concept is to provide a safe, comfortable place for people with dementia, their caregivers and people who just want to find out more about it,” Rae adds. “It’s an opportunity to talk freely.”

The Conversation Café began in Calgary in the fall of 2017, and so far, attendees are embracing the concept. They talk about anything from details surrounding care, strategies for successful travel or simply what their plans for the week may be. Knowing that those with dementia — and their caregivers — often feel isolated and alone, the idea is to give everyone a place to meet and visit with people who understand the challenges of living with similar diagnoses. 

“You’re not coming here to get a lecture,” Rae says. “We don’t want to stifle talking about the disease, because it’s a safe place to do that. But if people aren’t comfortable talking about the disease, there is no obligation to do so either.” [ ]

Join the Conversation

Dementia Network Calgary hosts the Conversation Café on the second Tuesday of every month at the 1918 Tap and Table. For more information, visit dementianetworkcalgary.ca.