A café with a cause
Giving those with dementia a sense of purpose.
BY: Eleanor Yap
The ADA Café, which opened November last year, is more than just a place where people can come to get good food like hearty beef stew, barramundi fish parcel and rosemary chicken. It is also a place where the clients of the Alzheimer’s Disease Association (ADA) can find job training and meaningful employment. These clients are different from others at ADA as they have early-onset dementia or early-stage dementia and are still able to function, but have a hard time finding work because of their condition. Employment to them means they can regain a sense of purpose and drive in life, and continue to live with dignity despite having a debilitating condition.
The café, which is located at Agape Village in Lorong 8 Toa Payoh, gives them that second chance. Embodying a ‘Food for a Cause’ concept, the café serves up nutritious food from Monday till Friday to the public as well as persons with dementia (PwDs). PwDs attending the Family of Wisdom (FOW) (Toa Payoh) Centre are engaged in the activities at the café such as food preparation, serving and housekeeping. One of them is 75-year-old Henry Siah, who was the first PwD to be engaged under this pilot café project. He helps serve, clean and chat with customers, especially during lunchtime. Diagnosed with early-stage Alzheimer’s Disease last year, he was encouraged by his doctor to go back to work.
This move proved a blessing. His son, Eric, has noticed a change in his father, who has become more light-hearted and jovial. He shared: “Working at the ADA Café, dad has become less agitated. He even makes curry puffs for the family sometimes!”
The idea of the café came about after observing clients, who in their early-stage dementia, offered to help with simple food preparation, explained ADA’s CEO Jason Foo. He noticed that they were happily cutting vegetables, and this activity seemed to bring about fond memories of their familial roles. “The ADA Café not only provides an opportunity for employment, but serves as a form of therapy which gives a sense of security and purpose to clients like Henry,” said Jason.
Added FOW centre manager at Toa Payoh, Chong Ying Ying, “Having clients at the ADA Café provides them with an opportunity to work beyond the debilitating condition and also ensures that gainful employment means that one’s remaining abilities do not go to waste.”
Beyond providing employment to ADA clients, the ADA Café also serves to bring more awareness on dementia, which is expected to rise to over 100,000 by 2050 in Singapore.