Memory Cafe honors memory of Mike Middleton

PATRIOT – South Shore Conservatory in Hingham is starting a Memory Café, for people with memory loss and their care partners to participate in stimulating activities and enjoy social connections and information. The Middleton family is sponsoring it.

T. Michael Middleton was 72 when he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2006. A graduate of Yale University, Harvard Business School and a former Naval officer, he had founded his own investment firm, Middleton & Co. in 1984. He served on many boards and committees, including the South Shore Conservatory of Music and the Trustees of Reservations.

He and his wife Joan looked around for services for people and families with the progressive brain disease and connected where they could. But they did not find any locally that highlighted his interests in the arts or connected him to others in that way.

Middleton died five years later at age 77 in 2011. Now six years after that loss, his family is supporting a new program aimed at bringing more arts-based services and social opportunities to people with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers.

South Shore Conservatory is starting a yearlong program, the Memory Café, for people with memory loss and their care partners that will encourage activities that develop cognitive awareness, explore educational topics, and offer the creative arts.

The new monthly program starts Thursday Jan. 18 and is funded by the Middleton family. It is part of the Conservatory’s Creative Arts Therapies Department. It will be held on the third Thursday of every month at One Conservatory Drive.

A memory café is a social event where, in addition to activities, participants are invited to share refreshment and conversation with others. The goal of the program is for guests to enjoy a shared experience, participate in activities that help maximize strengths, and socialize with others in a safe and supportive environment

For example, if a participant finds it easier to communicate through song or dance, as opposed to talking, they would be encouraged to participate in movement or music activities. Participants choose their own level of interaction and participation.

As described in a press release, the activities may include arts-based interests such as music, dance or visual arts; cognitive activities such as playing Trivial Pursuit, Name that Tune, word find or board games; motor activities such as broom ball or corn hole.

There will also be educational talks for care partners on insurance information, dealing with behavioral concerns, and guardianship.

It is his family’s wish to honor his life and his love of music, according to his wife Joan. A program such as this was not in place when he was suffering from Alzheimer’s, she said. They had been married 48 years when he died.

“Mike and I would have appreciated a program like the one South Shore Conservatory will offer,” Joan Middleton said in the press elease. “During Mike’s illness, there was very little available on the South Shore to help the memory impaired. We developed our own program but it would have benefited us both to be in a group setting. Until the very end, Mike continued to enjoy and appreciate music. We hope this program will bring joy and smiles to many people.”

The new Memory Café is the only one offered between Quincy and Pembroke.

There is no cost to join in, and participants do not need to attend every session. Participants are asked, however, to register please contact Eve Montague, Director of Creative Arts Therapies, at 781-934-2731, x20 or email

Read more . . . 

A Good Age blog post, by Sue Scheible

Top photo credit:  AP/Photo Carrie Antlfinger – Shirley Strysick, age 90, 2015