Enjoying the music

The Waunakee Area Senior Center dining room is full for a program in 2019. Programs have resumed there once again.

Through card games, coffee times and other programs, older residents are once again enjoying fellowship at the Waunakee Area Senior Center. Programs, including day trips to Brewers games, are once again being scheduled.

And on Sept. 2, the first Memory Café is planned since December of 2019.

The Café provides a safe space for individuals with early-onset dementia and their caregivers to gather, as all who attend are “in the same boat,” said senior center case manager Melissa Woznick. Organized by Waunakee’s Dementia Friendly Committee, it is held the first Thursday of the month from 9:30-11 a.m. at the Steeplechase Condominiums Clubhouse off of Woodland Drive.

Committee member Linda Marty Schmitz, who has helped to organize the programs, said this first one since COVID will be a celebration of café’s return, and Ian’s Pizza will be served.

The hour-and-a-half programs often feature speakers and social time.

“A lot of the caregivers compare notes,” said Waunakee Senior Center Director Cindy Mosiman. “They know they’re not alone.”

Caregivers often form relationships outside of the Memory Café, as well, finding friendships they might not have otherwise.

The Memory Café is the first initiative the Alzheimer’s and Dementia Committee plans to resume, its members say. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the members trained employees at area businesses how to be dementia-friendly. That training will resume, along with retraining at businesses that experienced high turnover during the pandemic. Volunteers who would like to become trainers are invited to help with the effort. Those who attend the Memory Café are asked to register beforehand by calling the senior center at (608) 849-8385.

While the senior center seemed to be closed during the pandemic, those who received the Meals on Wheels lunches through the nutrition program knew differently. So did the case managers. Mosiman said it was the only Dane County senior center to deliver meals to residents throughout 2020, and beginning last June, it opened for appointment-only foot care and massage sessions.

“We had staff here throughout the whole time,” Mosiman said.

When infections numbers were down, the senior center also restarted other programs like movie screening with the requirement that attendees register beforehand to limit capacity and allow for social distancing. Now caregiver-support groups have resumed.

“As we’ve added services and programs, people are coming. People tell us they’ve felt comfortable coming in with the way we’ve done it,” Mosiman said.

And now day trips are beginning again. The trip to the Brewers game in August is already full and another is planned in September.

Other upcoming outings are offered in coordination with the Friends of the Pheasant Branch Conservancy in Middleton, said Jim Vandenberg, who volunteers at the center and with the Friends group. One is a walk at the conservancy with a naturalist, and the other is a Make Memory Day for persons with dementia and their caregivers that involves music. Another is for those with mobility issues.

The Dementia Friendly Waunakee committee will have a booth at National Night Out Aug. 11 at Village Park, where visitors can stop for an ice cream and a clip for potato-chip bags. They can also learn about other programs offered in Waunakee for those with Alzheimer’s and dementia, such as the Music and Memory program through the Waunakee Public Library, where families can have a loved one’s favorite songs put on an iPod or other device for them to listen to.

To learn more about Waunakee Area Senior Center programs or to volunteer, see the weekly listing in the Waunakee Tribune, visit the center’s website at http://www.waunakee.com/209/Senior-Center or call the center (608) 849-8385. Or just stop in for a cup of coffee or a meal.

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