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Maintenance Cognitive Stimulation Therapy (MCST)

We are supporting the wellbeing and mental stimulation of people living with dementia through group programmes.

MCST and Reminder Finder

Find out how Vernon, Doug and Ian found friendship through an Age UK group.

What's MCST?

Maintenance Cognitive Stimulation Therapy (MCST) is a weekly one- to two-hour-long programme for people living with mild to moderate dementia.

Group members take part in meaningful and stimulating activities, proven to help maintain memory and mental functioning. The groups provide a fun, supportive environment where people can build new friendships.

Activities include:

  • discussions
  • word games
  • quizzes
  • physical activities
  • creative and musical activities.

Some things, like crosswords, can be difficult to tackle on your own but together you feel you can do it.

MCST group member

Why is MCST so important?

After someone is diagnosed with dementia, they may be offered Cognitive Stimulation Therapy (CST). This is a short-term programme for people with mild to moderate dementia and usually runs twice weekly for seven weeks following diagnosis.

However once this programme finishes, there’s limited provision of services for people with mild to moderate dementia. MCST is a longer-term programme based in community settings which helps to fill this gap.

Cognitive Stimulation is the only non-drug treatment recommended to improve cognition, independence and well-being by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE)

"Enabling people to have fun"

Dr. Aimee Spector, Clinical Psychologist at UCL, discusses the benefits of MCST. 

What’s its impact so far?

The 2017/18 pilot found that MCST sessions contributed to the maintenance of group members’ wellbeing, related to their feelings, memory and everyday life. These would usually be expected to decrease over time for people with dementia who don’t attend sessions.

Group members, carers and staff all stated the following benefits:

  • Enjoyment, having fun and increasing levels of happiness.
  • A sense of belonging and making new friendships.
  • Increased confidence in ability and to try other new things.
  • Improvements in communication, including reading and writing.
  • Improvements in memory and mental ability.
  • Having more energy.
  • Increased levels of physical activity.

Evaluation report

Our report evaluates the pilot so far with the aim of providing more services across the country.

I can see the difference in him from when I drop him to when I pick him up again – he’s so much happier and chatty.

Carer of group member

Where is the programme running?

With thanks to generous funding from the Association of British Insurers' 'COVID-19 Support Fund,' we're delighted to be able to build on the success of previous MCST pilots and set up 180 groups across the Age UK network between January 2021 and December 2023. This includes establishing some virtual MCST groups for the first time.

The Programme is being delivered across the Age UK network in phases in the following locations:

For further details, contact

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Last updated: Apr 28 2022

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