Chris Ellermaa, member of the European Dementia Carers Working Group and Board member of NGO Living with Dementia in Estonia, writes about new memory cafés in her country


NGO Elu Dementsusega (NGO Living with Dementia), representing people living with dementia and their carers in Estonia, has launched a series of "memory cafés". The first café took place in November 2023 and the second one was held on 21 March. These cafés aim to give an opportunity to people living with dementia and their carers to meet, share experiences, and contribute to the development of dementia awareness and acceptance in society. During the first memory café, we talked about the history of cafés in Estonia and talked to invited journalists about dementia-friendly language.

The topic of the March café was "Protection of interests for people with dementia and their loved ones: what, why and how?". The guest speaker, a public relations and lobbying expert spoke in more detail about conceptualising protecting interests and lobbying activities, and the achievement of goals by influencing decisions and regulations. We learned that it is important to have a strong network and a good understanding of policy-making for effective advocacy. Early intervention and building networks and relationships in advance are key. Listening skills to gather information and argumentation to represent one's views are also important.

The strongest resources of an NGO, in the protection of interests, are its members and the time they contribute. There is power in cooperation, and it is the foundation for setting goals and building a network to realise them. We aim to have a memory café at least once per quarter, with relevant and interesting topics and well-respected guests. NGO Living with Dementia is grateful that I, as a Board member, was invited to the morning radio programme Vikerhommik by Estonian Public Broadcasting to talk about life with dementia. This helps the organisation to reach the public, increase awareness and support people living with dementia.