Dementia and memory loss stigma sometimes leads individuals—and their family members—to shut themselves away, and they feel lonely and disconnected. A Seattle area movement called Momentia is trying to change that by building dementia-friendly communities that everyone can participate in and thrive.
One Momentia program is Momentia Mondays, hosted by the Southeast Seattle Senior Center in collaboration with Seattle Parks and Recreation. Momentia Mondays offer free weekly activities for individuals with memory loss, led by the center’s social worker and directed by the participants’ interests. Activities include improvisation for individuals with memory loss, drumming, and dancing.
Jingyi Li, a University of Washington PhD in Nursing Science student, learned about Momentia Mondays while looking for a program to evaluate as part of a university course. Recently, she ran a focus group with seven program participants, surveying their demographics and satisfaction with Momentia Mondays and discussing their thoughts on the program.
Over half of the participants were married African American women who heard about the program through a friend. Almost all of them came alone, without a caregiver, and were in the early stages of dementia or memory loss. Five out of seven said the program met expectations, one said it exceeded expectations, and the last did not know.
The participants said the program motivated them to take charge of their lives and improved their sense of self-worth and independence. It gave them social connections and something to look forward to every Monday.
Li previously worked in a retirement community with similar programming but she said—in comparison—the residents there were less enthusiastic about their activities. She credits Momentia Mondays’ success partly to the fact that it’s participant-driven. Staff takes into account the participants’ interests and requests instead of setting the agenda alone.
Another strength of the program, Li said, is how welcoming the program is to newcomers. While individuals in the program get to know each other and create a social community, it is open to everyone, with and without memory loss.
“Even when I was there trying to do observation, taking notes,” Li said. “They were like, ‘Don’t just sit in the back—join us!’”
She also remembers when a woman whose mother lived with memory loss came to the center to see what activities they had. The woman was hanging back but was invited to come and join.
“We started the activity with six people that day,” Li said. “But by the end, we had 12 people.”
Momentia Mondays take place every Monday from 10:30–11:30 a.m. at Southeast Seattle Senior Center (4655 S Holly St, Seattle). Anyone interested in attending can register by calling the center at 206-722-0317. For more information, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.momentiaseattle.org.