Lincoln Park Zoo Announces First-Ever Zoo-Based Memory Enrichment Program for Individuals Living with Dementia

Lincoln Park Zoo Announces First-Ever Zoo-Based Memory Enrichment Program for Individuals Living with Dementia

The monthly event joins a roster of accessibility programs aimed at making the zoo inclusive for all guests.

CHICAGO (August 29, 2023) – Lincoln Park Zoo is excited to announce Memory Enrichment, a free, monthly program for people living with Dementia along with their family, friends, and care partners. This new pilot program fosters a safe and welcoming space for guests to connect with wildlife and build community through socialization, set each month in a private space on zoo grounds with views of the animals.

“We know through research that when people living with Dementia are able to mindfully connect with nature, it improves their disposition and provides crucial mental stimulation,” Hart Prins Accessibility and Inclusion Manager Bill Green said. “We have the unique opportunity at Lincoln Park Zoo to provide that connection for people living with Dementia and their care networks and give attendees unique opportunities to learn about the plants and animals on site, all in an inclusive environment.”

Memory Enrichment, which takes place on the third Friday of every month, is facilitated by trained staff and mirrors common practices found in memory cafes in dementia-friendly cities. However, it is a first-of-its-kind program at a zoo or aquarium. The program melds community building with education opportunities, multi-sensory experiences, and low-impact physical activity. Attendees will have opportunities to share their experiences with each other, while also participating in engaging lessons on animals, plants, zoo history, and more. All Memory Enrichment programming has been developed in consultation with Sunrise Senior Living.

Memory Enrichment is the latest offering from Lincoln Park Zoo that fosters accessibility and creates a welcoming space for guests of all abilities and backgrounds.

Sensory-Friendly Hours is a quarterly program inviting guests with sensory processing disabilities, neurodiversity, and other disabilities to experience the zoo with reduced environmental stimulations and reduced crowd sizes. The special Sensory-Friendly Night at ZooLights Presented by ComEd and Invesco QQQ on December 6 allows attendees of all ages to enjoy the zoo’s premier holiday offering with reduced crowds, reduced music volume and noises, and static lights, while maintaining full staffing numbers to support guests throughout the night.

ASL interpretation is offered at the zoo through a partnership with Columbia College’s ASL Department. Through this partnership, Columbia students on a provisional license provide ASL interpretation during Guest Engagement demonstrations across the zoo, such as Seal Training and Feeding and Monkey Cognition. Interpretation services are integrated into select demonstrations throughout the week so that guests do not need to schedule an interpreter ahead of their visit. Guests are still welcome to request a professional interpreter in advance or inquire about what days interpreters will already be on-site by emailing

Lincoln Park Zoo has earned its Sensory Inclusive Certification from KultureCity, the nation’s leading non-profit advocate for sensory accessibility and acceptance. Free sensory bags are available to checkout at Searle Visitor Center, complete with fidget tools, noise reduction headphones, and other resources. Free visual schedules are also available for visitors who benefit from structure and a set schedule to avoid feeling overwhelmed.

There are numerous installations throughout the zoo that offer tactile elements and sensory experiences to enrich all guests’ visits, but particularly those using wheelchairs and those who are blind or have low vision. This includes hands-on signage and statues, as well as the new Houston Family Play Treehouse in Pritzker Family Children’s Zoo. The Zoo’s Accessibility Map can help guests navigate to these and other features on grounds.

Lincoln Park Zoo is committed to creating an accessible and inclusive environment for everyone, acting on feedback from what communities ask for and tell us. As such, zoo staff, volunteers, and community members are always welcome to reach out to to propose new accessibility initiatives, request specific accommodations, provide feedback, or learn more about accessibility at the zoo.


About Lincoln Park Zoo

Lincoln Park Zoo inspires communities to create environments where wildlife will thrive in our urbanizing world. The zoo is a leader in local and global conservation, animal care and welfare, learning, and science. A historic Chicago landmark founded in 1868, the not-for-profit Lincoln Park Zoo is a privately-managed, member-supported organization and is free and open 365 days a year. Visit us at

Media Contacts

Jillian Braun

Lincoln Park Zoo

Anna Cieslik

Lincoln Park Zoo

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