Shanghai café pioneers anti-dysmnesia efforts by training seniors as baristas to interact with customers
Published: Nov 18, 2021 11:43 PM
What can local communities do to ease or defer the problem of dysmnesia in senior citizens?

The Memory Café in Pudong in East China's Shanghai may have found its way to help senior residents in the area by organizing immersive interactive activities to help them fight dysmnesia. Volunteers in the café are trained to be receptionists, cashiers or even baristas. 

Memory Café is reportedly China's first of its kind to target elderly people with cognitive disabilities. Launched in November last year, the café now has 18 regular senior volunteers ranging between 70 and 82 years of age. Every week they come to the coffeeshop at fixed schedule for training. They also practice their skills to prepare coffee-making so that they do not forget the procedure.

They also serve clients for about one to two hours each shift. They do not pay for the training and they are not paid for their service, either. It is all volunteer work. 

"I love coming here to attend the theoretical training which is very helpful to avoid dementia," 80-year-old Guo Lüli told the Global Times, adding that "to learn new things I have to go over them the next day, it helps me use my brain more."

Guo said that she benefited from Shanghai's efforts in cultivating a senior-friendly environment. She learned smart phone application skills in another community center for seniors and then joined the volunteer program to get knowledge and skills about coffee. 

"Before joining the café volunteer program, what I did most every day was watch TV. I felt lonely and afraid when I realized that I could not remember things well," 73-year-old Peng Mingxiang told the Global Times.

"In the café, I made friends with people of my age and shared our experience of getting older. I became brave and more optimistic. When I serve customers, even though I am slow or even served the wrong coffee, young people are understanding which makes me feel good and respected," Peng added. 

A training is organized in Memory Café in Pudong in Shanghai on November 18, 2021. Photo: Chen Xia/Global Times

A training is organized in Memory Café in Pudong in Shanghai on November 18, 2021. Photo: Chen Xia/Global Times

Other volunteers could not agree more with Guo and Peng. They all appreciate that the volunteering program in the café helps them so much to have more social interaction and makes getting old more pleasant. 

According to the latest census, Shanghai has a population of 5.8 million residents aged 60 and above, accounting for 23.5 percent of the total population of 24.87 million. To improve the quality of life of the aging population is a challenge for the local government. 

Ma Guodong, an employee from Shanghai Jinmei Care for The Elderly, partner of the Memory Café, told the Global Times that the organization is cooperating with other dementia friendly units and communities across the city to help more senior citizens to prevent this mental illness. Besides the memory café, they are also promoting memory homes and day care in the city to provide different services to families with different needs.