Meeting elephants at Chester Zoo Dementia Café

With the help of some four-legged friends, Chester Zoo has been home to an Alzheimer’s Society Dementia Café. Zoo Ranger Pippa tells more.

You may have heard of a Dementia Café. But what about a Dementia Café with a couple of Asian elephants? Zoo Ranger Pippa describes how the team at Chester Zoo have been supporting people affected by dementia, with the help of some four-legged friends…

Two elephant calves at Chester Zoo
Chester Zoo is home to a close knit family of Asian elephants including these adorable claves, who are an obvious hit with our Dementia Café visitors

How it all started

Last year, Alzheimer’s Society was looking for the perfect venue in Chester to host a Dementia Café. Whilst searching for a location, they heard that many of our staff here at Chester Zoo had received training to support those living with dementia.

After initial meetings between the Zoo and Dene Residential and Nursing home, it was agreed that the zoo would be a great spot for the new café. The team here was ecstatic!

Hosted at Bembe Coffee Shop, the café offers a dementia-friendly environment where people living with dementia, and their families and carers, can come along for some fresh coffee, a cake and a catch up. All whilst enjoying a view of the zoo’s warthogs, black rhino and Asian elephants!

Zoo ranger holding an ipad and talking about the animals. Me at the café talking to some of our visitors about the range of animals we have here at Chester Zoo.

Finding out about the incredible animals

The coffee mornings have become very popular. As well as meeting other families affected by dementia, visitors can get help and information from the Alzheimer’s Society who bring fun themed quizzes, games and crosswords. Service users can also flick through scrapbooks with reminiscence-style themes, such as Victory in Europe Day.

Often, our Discovery and Learning team will deliver a short talk about some of the amazing animal species (and life-size skulls!) here at the zoo; leaving lots of time to go around the tables and chat to each visitor, showing them photos and interesting animal artefacts.

Sunda Gharial at the window of their habitat on Islands at Chester Zoo Our Sunda Gharial is one of the many animals our team has done talks about.

Our team always look forward to the coffee mornings. We’ve built some great relationships with the regular visitors who enjoy trying to get our help answering the quizzes – which I am particularly bad at!

The talks are a great conversation starter. They give us a chance to hear all the amazing memories from past zoo trips - including some incredible adventures of animal spotting in the wild!

These mornings are really special to us as they provide those living with dementia, as well as their families, friends and carers the opportunity to get together in a relaxing environment and enjoy a nice cup of coffee.

We’d love you to come and join us! The Café meets from 10.30am on the second and fourth Monday of every month. You can find more information on the Chester Zoo website.

Zoo ranger holding an animal skull and talking to cafe users Another shot of me with some of the café users – we often bring in animal skulls for everyone to look at.

Not near Chester? Find your local services

Dementia Cafés are a great way of getting information, advice and peer support. Alzheimer’s Society will often invite other speakers and organisations to talk, including The Carers Trust, Age UK and British Red Cross.

An opportunity for people to meet others in similar situations, it can provide a support network for those who need it. Peer support group facilitator, Amy Robinson, said:

Regular meetings can help to improve people’s overall health and wellbeing. It can also help to reduce social isolation and bring people together in the local community.’

Would you like to attend a Dementia Café or activity group? Search for your local dementia services.

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11 comments

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this is a fantastic idea might even try it with Dad who will not speak to anyone

It might be worth a try! If you'd like to find other types of services in your area, you can search here: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/dementiaconnect Thanks and all the best to your family.

hi,can you tell me the time and date of the next Chester zoo meeting please?many thanks Hilary bates

Hi Hilary - the zoo coffee mornings run from 10.30am to 12 noon on the second and fourth Monday of every month. After today, the next one will be on the 9 April. You can find out more here: http://www.chesterzoo.org/whats-happening/whats-on/2017/02/dementia-fri… Thanks and all the best.

Hi are the zoo coffee mornings still running my mum would love this
Thanks

Hi Paula - yes, the zoo coffee mornings are still running. They meet from 10.30am to 12 noon on the second and fourth Monday of every month. You can find out more here: http://www.chesterzoo.org/whats-happening/whats-on/2017/02/dementia-fri… Thanks and all the best!

Are you aware of anything similar in the US? Thanks!

Hi Lisa - it may be worth contacting the Alzheimer's Association in America to see if there are any similar schemes. You can use this service search as a starting point: https://www.alz.org/apps/findus.asp We hope this helps! Thank you and all the best.

HI, We live in North Wales, and often visit the Zoo, as members. My husband has dementia, I'm sure he would enjoy the coffee morning & company. Is it OK to join you, with us living out of the area.

Hi Ann - this should be fine! The coffee morning runs 10.30am to 12 noon on the second and fourth Monday of every month - there's no need to book. If you'd like to speak to a member of the team at the zoo, please call them on 01244 380280. Thank you and all the best.

Superb initiative. Don't suppose that you're rolling it out to other zoos. Or at least for staff to be trained up as Dementia Friends. Decided that I'm taking my Mum to London Zoo tomorrow (she's 93, has Dementia and is in a wheelchair). Such a nourishing way to spend time: With animals.

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