Oregon church ministry helps members of elderly community age gracefully
The newest ministry at Smyrna United Church of Christ in Canby, Ore., aims to help the community’s older population age gracefully while living active, fulfilling lives. The church’s Memory Café, now in its second season, is a free program that helps middle-aged and older adults learn ways to help keep their brains healthy, and to become informed about local resources available to help them live independently and care for loved ones with cognitive impairment.
“We’ve been at it long enough now that we feel confident sharing that it has ‘taken root,'” said the Rev. Deborah Patterson, pastor of Smyrna UCC. “We would be glad to help other congregations if they are interested in launching something similar.”
The Memory Café is held on the first Friday of each month, and draws 35 to 40 people. The initiative grew out of the church’s previous adult education program, “Keep Your Mind for Later Use.” Each month, the Memory Café includes a brain wellness activity, handouts with information about brain health and wellness, information about new books on brain wellness, recent articles on brain health, and a plated lunch. This year’s program also featured presentations from organizations such as NorthWest Senior & Disability Services, the Aging and Disability Resource Connection of Oregon, and the Oregon State Unit on Aging.
There is no cost to attend the Memory Café, although donations are encouraged to help cover the cost of lunch.
“It has been really empowering for older adults in our congregation, and has brought in a number of visitors every time,” Patterson said.
The next season of the Memory Café will begin at Smyrna UCC in the fall. One upcoming program will focus on the benefits of seniors volunteering to help other seniors. A local pharmacist will speak on how to best manage medications, a speaker from a local continuing-care community will give a presentation on how to know when it is time for senior citizens to move out of their homes, and a presenter from the Alzheimer’s Association will discuss how to help family members living with the disease. There will also be a presentation by a doctor from Western Oregon University.
“While much has changed over the years,” Patterson said, “Smyrna strives to stay relevant and to serve people of all ages and abilities.”
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