Barnsley Memory Cafe: Sharing memories and cake


Once you reach a ripe-old age, you’ve probably experienced one of those ‘senior moments’.

Perhaps you put the car keys down and can’t for the life of you think where, or maybe you mix up your grandchildren’s names and go through the houses until you get there.

Yes, being forgetful can be a little embarrassing and your memory slowing down may just be a sign you’re getting older. But when it causes concern and starts affecting daily life, it may be a sign of the early stages of dementia.

As the average life expectancy in the UK surpasses 80, it’s no surprise that conditions like Alzheimer’s disease, the most common type of dementia, has been diagnosed in over 850,000 people.

Much more than just memory loss, dementia can have devastating effects on families coping with the disease as brain functioning worsens when the progressive neurological condition takes hold.

To support those in Barnsley living with dementia and their families and carers, Tom Carberry, manager of Berneslai Café in Barnsley Town Hall, identified a need for valuable community action by opening up a memory café.

Held on Sundays twice a month, the memory café is supported by Kathy Markwick, a member of Barnsley Rockley Rotary Club whose successful Superjam Tea Parties for the elderly, lonely or socially isolated spurred the idea to create a social group for dementia sufferers and their families, friends and carers.

A time to enjoy together, the memory cafe incorporates everything from arts and crafts sessions to films and poetry, with entertainment by Susan St Nicholas and Stevie Moore.

Those living with dementia can sometimes lose interest in activities and socialising becomes challenging due to personality changes, low mood or anxiety. Tom hopes the memory café will continue to be a much-needed pick me up and encourage others with the disease and their carers and families to join in.

Along with hosting the event, Tom and his team have recently become Dementia Friends, an initiative run by the Alzheimer’s Society to help those in the community understand what it is like to live with the disease.

By recognising the symptoms such as confusion, speech and mobility problems and difficulties making decisions, they can find compassionate ways to help and provide support to families or carers when their condition deteriorates.

Supported by the Mayor of Barnsley, Cllr Linda Burgess, some of the sessions are now funded by her charity which she has chosen to support those living with or affected by dementia. Businesses from across the region are also actively involved, providing financial support through sponsorship, as well as attending many of the events.

Tickets for the memory café are just £5 which includes afternoon tea with homemade scones, cakes and unlimited tea or coffee.

It is thought that one in three people over 65 be diagnosed with some form of dementia; one in 14 over 65 and one in six will develop Alzheimer’s and one in every 20 cases of dementia will affect those younger than 65.

The statistics are somewhat frightening, especially if you have already seen or experienced the disease in others around you. However, with support systems in place throughout the community, such as the memory café, people don’t have to go down the uncertain road alone.

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