Connect with others at the first dementia cafe in Thunder Bay, Ont.

For the first time in the Lakehead, a not-for-profit organization in partnership with the Lakehead University's Center for Education and Research on Aging and Health and the Alzheimer Society of Thunder Bay are joining forces to open the first dementia cafe this Sunday, March 18.

The cafe will take place every Sunday from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Urban Abbey

Every Sunday from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. the Urban Abbey will be transformed into a dementia cafe. Residents who suffer from dementia, their family and their friends are encouraged to come and enjoy an afternoon of entertainment and social activity. (Urban Abbey / Facebook)

For the first time in the Lakehead, a not-for-profit organization in partnership with the Lakehead University's Center for Education and Research on Aging and Health and the Alzheimer Society of Thunder Bay are joining forces to open the first dementia cafe this Sunday, March 18.

Starting from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Urban Abbey, located near the corner of Algoma Street North and Red River Street, will be hosting their first dementia cafe as an opportunity for people with dementia to come together in a safe environment with their family and friends by their side.

Director with the Centre for Education and Research on Aging and Health at Lakehead University, Elaine Wiersma said the idea came to her during a discussion with Scotland Morrison at the Urban Abbey and since then, the pair have been busy recruiting volunteers and training them for Sunday's event.

"The volunteers will be doing a range of different things from greeting people at the door to hosting tables to really make sure that everyone whose coming through the door is connecting with someone," Wiersma said.

Engaging in social justice issues

The Urban Abbey is a "24 hour community hub," according to the co-founder, Scotland Morrison.

"It is a modern reinterpretation of a community that takes ... an old church building and re-imagines it and renovates it ... for the purpose of the community," Morrison said.

He said officials at the Urban Abbey have been in continuos discussions with the City of Thunder Bay to determine what the community needs and how they can help.

Urban Abbey co-founder, Scotland Morrison said the idea of a dementia cafe came up in discussion with Elaine Wiersma. Having volunteered at a seniors home a few years ago, Morrison said he has a soft spot for those who are suffering from dementia. (Urban Abbey / Facebook)

"We offer three meals everyday at 12:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m.," Morrison continued, "we run a THRIVE program ... which help women who are struggling with opiate use or drug addiction who have children or who are about to have children ...we have also done transitional housing ... and also sometimes help young people who have fallen through the cracks."

All services at the Urban Abbey are free of charge, which is why the not-for-profit centre hosts concerts, art classes and other community events as a way to raise funds.

Dementia cafe every Sunday

The first Dementia Cafe opens at 2 p.m. on Sunday, March 18 and every Sunday after that, Morrison said.

Funded through volunteers and donations, Sunday's Dementia Cafe is intended to be a social environment however Wiersma said anyone who has questions about the disease will have the opportunity to receive the support they need.

"The Alzhiemers Society of Thunder Bay will be there with different resources and opportunities to connect with some of the staff," Wiersma said.

She said a band has also been booked for the event and encourages residents of Thunder Bay to drop by with their friends or family.

Once an old church, Morrison said the Urban Abbey is a "24 hour community hub" that's been re-imaged and renovated to fit the needs of the Thunder Bay community. (Urban Abbey / Facebook)

"Most people will say nobody else can understand ... what's happening inside my brain," Wiersma said, "and one of the most important things that we actually find with people with dementia is the opportunity to connect with others," and Sunday's Dementia Cafe is intended for exactly that.