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Rus­sell & Josephine Kott Foun­da­tion Fund­ed Mem­o­ry Café

For the last year, KYC has been proud to host it’s month­ly Mem­o­ry Café for old­er adults and their care­givers. Although the café had to change for­mats due to COVID-19, we’re proud to share the final grant report with you, our com­mu­ni­ty and friends.

Ken­neth Young Cen­ter (KYC)’s Mem­o­ry Café offers old­er adults and their care­givers a safe space to learn about avail­able resources, inter­con­nect with oth­er seniors and senior-care providers with lived expe­ri­ence, and enjoy an after­noon of lunch and enter­tain­ment. This month­ly event brings clients togeth­er for a few hours, pro­vid­ing infor­mal oppor­tu­ni­ties for KYC staff to assess health changes, dis­cuss cur­rent chal­lenges, and build inter­per­son­al rela­tion­ships with oth­ers deal­ing with sim­i­lar needs.

KYC launched its first Mem­o­ry Café at the end of 2018, how­ev­er state and fed­er­al sup­port of the pro­gram was sig­nif­i­cant­ly cut by more than 60% for the 2019 – 2020 fis­cal year. Thanks to the gen­eros­i­ty of the Kott Foun­da­tion, these fund­ing cuts did not impact the qual­i­ty of the ser­vices pro­vid­ed to par­tic­i­pants, but allowed pro­gram­ming to con­tin­ue in Octo­ber, 2019. Month­ly café events were held in per­son from Octo­ber, 2019 to Feb­ru­ary, 2020, engag­ing par­tic­i­pants over lunch with an edu­ca­tion­al activ­i­ty, stim­u­lat­ing social inter­ac­tions, craft oppor­tu­ni­ties to pro­vide cre­ative out­lets, and mem­o­ry and sen­so­ry rec­ol­lec­tion tools. The café also offered par­tic­i­pants a well-bal­anced, nutri­tion­al meal, with inter­spersed oppor­tu­ni­ties to try new and healthy food options to broad­en par­tic­i­pants’ palates for health­i­er alter­na­tives to fast food, which can be pro­cured with lit­tle prepa­ra­tion, but does not offer diver­si­fied nutri­tion. Each café end­ed with a brief sur­vey of the day’s events, pro­vid­ing crit­i­cal feed­back to cater future events to clients’ needs and inter­ests, while also offer­ing an anony­mous oppor­tu­ni­ty share any areas for improve­ment. KYC is proud to share that we have yet to receive any neg­a­tive feed­back about the Mem­o­ry Café, except that clients wished it was host­ed more often!

As COVID-19 forced all activ­i­ties to stop in-per­son, KYC’s team imme­di­ate­ly ini­ti­at­ed exten­sive one-on-one phone ses­sions. Clients strug­gling with access to food were con­nect­ed with the Home Deliv­ered Meals Pro­gram and sup­port groups for old­er adult care­givers were tran­si­tioned to vir­tu­al plat­forms. Mul­ti­ple grants have been sub­mit­ted to sup­port pro­vid­ing tablets and tech­no­log­i­cal devices to our most crit­i­cal­ly in need clients for social engage­ment, but all have remained con­nect­ed through reg­u­lar calls by phone.

Mem­o­ry Café activ­i­ty bas­kets have been made with exer­cise tools, cre­ative activ­i­ties, self-care mate­ri­als, and games to sup­port old­er adults and their care­givers dur­ing quar­an­tine. Addi­tion­al­ly, bas­kets includ­ed hand sanitizer/​disinfectant spray, dis­pos­able gloves, and face masks to help pro­tect these old­er adults when out­side trav­el was unavoid­able. Each pair also received a gift card to Pan­era with funds to pur­chase to-go lunch­es on par with the meals pro­vid­ed at the Mem­o­ry Café to pro­vide a small amount of respite to care­givers and a health­i­er nutri­tion option for old­er adults. The mate­ri­als select­ed for each care­giv­er bas­ket have been specif­i­cal­ly cho­sen to be used indi­vid­u­al­ly at the leisure of the old­er adults, but also can be used in a group set­ting once vir­tu­al events are pos­si­ble. For exam­ple, recip­i­ents received strength resis­tance bands to assist with mus­cle devel­op­ment, gen­tle stretch­ing, and low-impact exer­cise. These bands can be eas­i­ly used indi­vid­u­al­ly, while we also plan to use them through a vir­tu­al Sit and Stay Fit” class this sum­mer. Through the activ­i­ty bas­kets, we can ensure clients can remain engaged in the café until it is safe to return to in-per­son gatherings.

Over the last two years, KYC’s Mem­o­ry Café has built a strong fol­low­ing of con­sis­tent­ly par­tic­i­pa­to­ry guests, sup­port­ing 15 par­tic­i­pants through reg­u­lar par­tic­i­pa­tion and approx­i­mate­ly 40 old­er adults includ­ing those with more spo­radic par­tic­i­pa­tion. The par­tic­i­pants them­selves have been the great­est refer­ral source, bring­ing friends to the café and rec­om­mend­ing par­tic­i­pa­tion to oth­ers. It has also been an inte­gral advo­ca­cy tool, as KYC has engaged local leg­isla­tive rep­re­sen­ta­tives to join the café, giv­ing them a chance to see first­hand the needs of old­er adults as they age with­in our communities. 

In addi­tion to par­tic­i­pant sur­veys and indi­vid­ual phone fol­low-up ses­sions, KYC’s Old­er Adult Divi­sion held Mem­o­ry Café dis­cus­sion meet­ings to assess strate­gies and activ­i­ties that were work­ing well with par­tic­i­pants, as well as areas of improve­ment. Staff with vary­ing involve­ment with the café were con­sult­ed to ensure diver­si­ty of rep­re­sen­ta­tion and staff with recent expe­ri­ence in senior care were also con­sult­ed to share inno­v­a­tive oppor­tu­ni­ties for client engage­ment. KYC’s Com­mu­ni­ca­tion Team also pro­mot­ed events at com­mu­ni­ty out­reach fairs, through social media, on KYC’s web­site, and through KYC’s email dis­tri­b­u­tion to 5,000 com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers. They also worked with local com­mu­ni­ty faith lead­ers to share infor­ma­tion on the Mem­o­ry Café to bring par­tic­i­pants from the broad­er com­mu­ni­ty and expand the café’s impact. These meet­ings also recruit­ed new vol­un­teers to sup­port the month­ly events, bring­ing addi­tion­al input, expo­sure, and engagement. 

Of course, COVID-19 sig­nif­i­cant­ly impact­ed the Mem­o­ry Café’s abil­i­ty to pro­vide the social inter­ac­tion piece of the project over the last five months, how­ev­er for many of the caregiver/​care recip­i­ents, increased indi­vid­u­al­ized atten­tion met their chang­ing needs. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, for far too many old­er adults we serve, social iso­la­tion has become an increas­ing prob­lem in the pan­dem­ic and although many events and ser­vices are avail­able online, for old­er adults with­out tech­nol­o­gy or in-home sup­port to access/​utilize tech­nol­o­gy, the sep­a­ra­tion from the com­mu­ni­ty is even more deeply felt. KYC con­tin­ues to pro­vide sup­port by phone and has offered phone enter­tain­ment mate­ri­als like Math­er Tele­phone Top­ics, a toll-free num­ber offer­ing a range of inter­est­ing dis­cus­sions and pro­grams by phone. We have also engaged vol­un­teers to write pos­i­tive mes­sages and cards for clients, as well as youth dec­o­rat­ed art­work to bright­en old­er adults’ days while remain­ing social­ly dis­tant. Donat­ed care pack­ages have been deliv­ered and gift cards for gro­cery stores with senior hours have helped bridge the nutri­tion­al gap, in addi­tion to increased com­mu­ni­ca­tion about local pantry options that had dri­ve-thru con­tact­less pick­up days. Over the weeks and months to come, KYC con­tin­ues to pro­vide increased sup­port by phone and is work­ing with fun­ders and donors to cre­ate both writ­ten and dig­i­tal sup­port mate­ri­als to help keep old­er adults sta­ble in their homes. As we antic­i­pate iso­la­tion for this most vul­ner­a­ble group of old­er adults will like­ly span into 2021, we are also work­ing to estab­lish a pen pal/​socially dis­tant friend­ly vol­un­teer con­nec­tion. This deeply need­ed social engage­ment will help men­tal­ly stim­u­late old­er adults (espe­cial­ly those who are home alone for sig­nif­i­cant peri­ods of time), while engag­ing vol­un­teers to expe­ri­ence first­hand the needs of our grow­ing senior population. 

Suc­cess Story (Names have been changed to pro­tect the pri­va­cy of the pair.)

Susan was attend­ing a busi­ness expo, strug­gling to walk up and down the rows of busi­ness­es, when she saw a booth for Ken­neth Young Cen­ter and an open chair in our exhi­bi­tion space. Tired and sore, she took a seat not know­ing what KYC was, but grate­ful for the oppor­tu­ni­ty to rest. A KYC staff per­son greet­ed Susan with a piece of can­dy and a warm smile. She shared a lit­tle infor­ma­tion on pro­grams and upcom­ing events, includ­ing the Mem­o­ry Café for care­givers and old­er adults. Well, I’m not a care­giv­er” explained Susan. I just live with my mom who is in her 80s and needs help around the house.” As the two talked, the staff per­son gen­tly explained that not all care­givers are paid and that there are resources for fam­i­ly mem­bers liv­ing as full-time care providers. Susan took a fly­er for the next month’s Mem­o­ry Café and said, Free lunch? How can we refuse!”

The fol­low­ing month, Susan and her moth­er ner­vous­ly walked into Ken­neth Young Cen­ter for the café. They imme­di­ate­ly saw the staff per­son Susan had met ear­li­er, who walked over to greet them and wel­comed Susan by name. Her face lit up as the three walked into large room togeth­er. The staff per­son intro­duced Susan and her moth­er Ann to KYC’s Care­giv­er Sup­port Spe­cial­ist, who seat­ed them with anoth­er mother/​daughter pair. While eat­ing lunch, Susan chat­ted with anoth­er daugh­ter car­ing for her moth­er and Ann hap­pi­ly danced in her seat to the music play­ing. They com­plet­ed a keep­sake craft, received care­giv­er mate­ri­als, and picked up an invi­ta­tion to the fol­low­ing month’s event. Between cafés, Susan spoke one-on-one with the Care­giv­er Sup­port Spe­cial­ist to eval­u­ate her needs, and the pair have attend­ed each month’s events as two of our most reg­u­lar guests. Both Susan and Ann are receiv­ing addi­tion­al sup­port ser­vices through KYC’s Old­er Adults Divi­sion. I didn’t know how much I was strug­gling until I found help mak­ing our day-to-day lives eas­i­er. I’m hap­pi­er and my mom loves the time out with our KYC friends” shared Susan.

KYC is deeply grate­ful to the Kott Foun­da­tion for mak­ing this expe­ri­ence possible. 


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