SAN ANTONIO — One song rewinds time for Charles and Mary Love.
“'Let Me Call You Sweetheart.' That was way back there, wasn’t it? Back when we first met,” said Charles.
“I was a teenager,” said Mary.
Today at San Antonio’s Memory Café, the tune transported them back sixty years to that moment in time.
“We bring people living with dementia a place where they can meet and socialize with people on the same journey as they are,” explained Dr. Carole White of UT Health San Antonio.
Memory cafés first gained popularity in Europe as a response to Alzheimer's disease. The Memory Café is the first – and only – in San Antonio.
“We try to bring activities that will stimulate memory,” explained White. “We have music activities, art activities. We had an improv person last month.”
The café aims to alleviate a problem that affects millions of people. An estimated 3.8 million people live with dementia in the United States. 380 thousand people in Texas have the diagnosis – a number that is dramatically expected to increase.
“By 2025, we estimate there will be half a million people in Texas living with Alzheimer's Disease,” White explained.
Memory Cafés aren’t just for patients – they’re for other people who may be affected.
“It’s a family disease; so when someone has that diagnosis, we’re impacting at least three family members,” said White.
Board games, singing, and coffee make the café feel more like a fun day out rather than a medical treatment.
“They talk about it almost being a date together,” said White. “They don’t have to worry about other things going on.”
Most folks in attendance are seniors who reflect on the past in between songs.
“It was so fun singing those old songs from years ago. It’s exciting to be around people a similar age and similar problems,” said Charles.
However, it’s also a tool to embrace the present, explain the Loves.
“The exciting thing about this is that I learned about the choir – the Grace Notes choir. I joined, and got her to join too.”