It’s a Tuesday morning and a group of people are sharing morning tea at a local community venue. They are talking about how freezing Melbourne winter has been this year. An energetic couple arrive with Molly, their black guide dog in training, sparking up lots of conversation and laughter amongst the group. A younger woman eagerly shares about her recent overseas adventures, while another couple join the group with a huge container of fresh baked scones.
What makes this catch up so unique is that the people who attend either have younger onset dementia, or are here to support their family member, partner or friend. The term younger onset dementia is used to describe any form of dementia diagnosed in people under the age of 65. What makes younger onset dementia so unique is that people with the condition can be fit, healthy, working full time and/or raising a family at the time they are diagnosed. This makes for a complex time for individuals, their families and carers. Everyone is suddenly faced with some big changes as to how they do life together, as well as a sense of loss or grief for how things used to be.
The Carrington Café is not a café in the literal sense. It is a social get together for people living with younger onset dementia and their family or friends. The café runs on the third Tuesday of every month, includes hot drinks, morning tea and sometimes members bring in a plate to share. Although the people who attend have booked in advance, the café does not run any structured activities. Instead, it is a chance to get out into the community and have a cuppa and a chat with some people who may be in a similar situation to yours.
‘Sometimes we talk about the day to day, sometimes people share what they have been going through. We just let conversations run naturally’, says Diedre, who has been running the Carrington Café for 3 years now. ‘We are here for them when they need us, often that means connecting people to other support services to help them live well with younger onset dementia’.
‘Since I’ve started going to the café, it has been really good meeting other people and hearing their stories… hearing their life stories I mean’, states Arthur, who has been a café regular since 2016 and is pictured above with his wife.
There are an estimated 27,247 Australians with younger onset dementia, with that figure expected to rise. It can be an unexpected diagnosis for people living with the condition as the word ‘dementia’ is normally associated with the elderly. The Carrington Café acknowledges that people with younger onset dementia may be facing different circumstances or challenges. The café allows for people living with this unique condition to find a group of peers. It also provides an opportunity to break up the weekly routine and relax in an atmosphere with no expectation. As the demands on carers and people with younger onset dementia would at times mount up, the Carrington Café is here to provide a space simply for them.
The Carrington Café is held on the third Tuesday of every month, with a contribution of $5 per person. Bookings are essential and can be made by contacting Diedre on 03 8843 2215 or firstname.lastname@example.org