Twice a month, Immaculate Conception parish in Glenville is hosting what it calls a “Memory Café” for individuals or families living with memory issues.

The café was organized by pastoral care coordinator Rachel Winters, and meets every second and fourth Wednesday of the month from 1-2 p.m. Mrs. Winters encouraged caregivers to invite loved ones who have dementia to come, listen to music and talk with other parishioners or guests who live with dementia.

“I have a passion for seniors and people with Alzheimer’s,” Mrs. Winters said. “They have so much to offer and so many wonderful things to talk about. They can’t just be left at the side; they’re still God’s people. They can still enjoy life.”

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 5.7 million people in the United States are living with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. New York State alone has approximately 400,000 people with Alzheimer’s.

The Memory Café was created in partnership with the Alzheimer’s Association, which helps Mrs. Winters purchase materials and offers assistance with organizing the meetings if there’s a need.

The cafe was sparked by a talk between Mrs. Winters and a friend who is a consultant at the Alz­heimer’s Association. “Everybody was very excited about it, very happy about it,” she said. “They were all looking forward to it.”

At the last meeting, Mrs. Winter’s decked out the parish meeting space in St. Patrick’s Day decor: decorating the tables in green, playing Irish music and offering holiday-themed cookies and treats.

A greeter welcomed families at the door, handing out name tags, and had guests sit at one of two round tables pushed together. Mrs. Winters hoped that doing this would help encourage conversation, and she was right: “I had activities planned, but I didn’t have to use them, because everybody was talking.”

A dozen people attended. They discussed plans for St. Patrick’s Day, and some guests who had dementia were able to recall stories from childhood to share. Mrs. Winters explained that dementia takes the short-term memory before the long-term.

Some people may find it frustrating to constantly re-ask questions of a person with dementia, but Mrs. Winters said she doesn’t mind. Ever since she was a child, she said, she wanted to help the elderly. She graduated from SUNY-Plattsburgh in 1987 with a degree in recreation for the elderly, a major that she created with help from the university.

She went on to work as a recreational director at Child’s Nursing Home in Albany, then came to work at Immaculate Conception after taking a break from work to raise her son.

Mrs. Winters is excited for the next meeting. She said it doesn’t matter how many people attend, “as long as people are getting something out of it.”

(For information, contact Mrs. Winters at 518-399-9168, ext. 226.)