Episcopal Retirement Services Aims to Make Cincinnati the Most Dementia-Inclusive City in the US by 2025

Laura Lamb, ERS President and CEO and her sister Michelle Elliott collaborated to start the Memory Cafés at the Harrison Public Library where Michelle is the branch manager.

Photo provided by ERS


The number of people living with dementia is growing each year. Today, over 31,000 people in Cincinnati have dementia, and The Alzheimer’s Association estimates that 16 million Americans will be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or dementia by 2050.

As the numbers rise, communities are struggling to keep up with the demand for assisted-living beds and community-based services. But in Cincinnati, Episcopal Retirement Services (ERS) and its partners are paving the way.

“Our vision is that by 2025, Cincinnati will be the most dementia-inclusive city in the country,” says Laura Lamb, President and CEO for Episcopal Retirement Services.

ERS recognizes the number of individuals living with cognitive loss, and it’s determined to enrich their lives through community programs. Some ERS programs include Deupree Meals On Wheels, which is on track to deliver 140,000 meals this year, and Parish Health Ministry, which encourages local churches to promote healthy lifestyles and limit the onset of diseases.

ERS is also spearheading additional community efforts. One ERS-led initiative on the forefront is called Dementia-Inclusive Cincinnati, which Lamb envisioned to combat the challenges of those living with Alzheimer’s and dementia and their care partners. The idea stemmed from Dementia Friendly America (DFA), a national network that ensures communities are equipped to support those living with dementia, as well as their caregivers.

“The initiative was inspired by Dementia Friendly America,” Lamb says, noting that this type of environment is created by communities working together to create a welcoming culture and supportive options for those living with cognitive loss.

To launch Dementia-Inclusive Cincinnati, Lamb gathered a group of public, private and non-profit organizations with a goal to gain acceptance for all people living with the disease and, by 2025, establish Cincinnati as the most dementia-inclusive city in America. These partner organizations currently include the Alzheimer’s Association of Greater Cincinnati, the City of Cincinnati, the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton county and the Kennedy Heights neighborhood.

The partnerships have led to several pilot programs so far. Currently, ERS, the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County and The Alzheimer’s Association of Cincinnati are launching “memory cafes” in three local library branches; Harrison, Blue Ash and Green Hills. At each memory cafe, adults with Alzheimer’s and dementia can meet, socialize and partake in activities like music, games and adult coloring books. Memory cafe events are held once per month in a safe, comfortable space, and caregivers are welcome to join.

The Sleepy Bee Cafe in Oakley has also paired with ERS to create a dementia-inclusive restaurant training program, which will educate staff on identifying someone with cognitive loss, improving communication and relieving stress when serving these individuals.

ERS has begun a partnership with Kennedy Heights Art Center (KHAC) that begins in January with an art camp for young people who will create art for ERS residents, especially those living with cognitive loss. Dementia-Inclusive Cincinnati partners have plans for an art therapy program at KHAC, where the neighborhood has a higher-than-average number of seniors in its population.

Through the work of Episcopal Retirement Services and its partner organizations, Cincinnati can become a community that embraces the lives of its elders.

“We are pushing further,” Lamb says. “We want to be more than friendly; we want to be inclusive.”


Episcopal Retirement Services is located at 3870 Virginia Ave., Cincinnati, OH 45227. For more information, call 513.271.9610 or visit www.episcopalretirement.com