As of this Fall, people on the east side of King County no longer need to drive to Seattle to enjoy a variety of social and creative engagement programs designed for people living with dementia and their care partners. From garden walks to improv theater, new and vibrant dementia-friendly opportunities are emerging on the Eastside in this latest expansion of the Momentia movement.
Momentia formed in Seattle in 2013 as a number of local organizations and community members explored and developed an innovative way to support people living with dementia and their care partners. Through programs such as art gallery tours at the Frye Art Museum and watercolor painting at the Japanese Garden, the goal of Momentia is to empower people with memory loss and their care partners to remain connected and active in the community.
One of the founding members, Marigrace Becker, who manages community education at the UW Memory and Brain Wellness Center, talks about this unique grassroots movement and its collective determination “to transform what it means to live with dementia in the community—changing the story from one of despair to one of hope.” Events as simple as Alzheimer’s Cafes—monthly gatherings in welcoming spaces like coffee shops or libraries—overcome social isolation and nurture meaningful relationships.
Now on the Eastside, a group of community organizers looking to expand Momentia beyond Seattle is working with Becker to plan and implement three pilot programs by the end of the year.
The planning process kicked off earlier this year with a community forum at the Bellevue Family YMCA, at which people living with dementia and their care partners shared ideas for programs they wanted to be involved in on the Eastside. Out of this forum came numerous possibilities for the planning group’s review. The themes and activities that rose to the top include music, dance, socializing in a relaxed environment, nature and garden walks with sensory and art components, and theater-based activities.
These themes have been fully developed into pilot programs this fall, taking cues from successful programs in Seattle.
The first event—a Bellevue Botanical Garden Walk and Art Program—was offered by North Bellevue Community Center on September 18. The garden tour and walk invigorated body, mind, and spirit. A dozen or so participants and their caregivers enjoyed taking in sights, sounds, scents, textures, and colors of a beautiful autumn day while exploring plant life, followed by an indoor hands-on art project. They enjoyed connecting with each other over the shared experience.
“People had such a good time together,” says community volunteer Melinda Franklin. “It stood out to me how people appreciated being with others facing the same challenges, in an environment that promotes joy. So many wanted to know when the next one was going to happen.”
The second event—a festive happy hour called the “Grape Jam”—is scheduled on Saturday, November 2, in Kirkland. Along with wine tasting and a singalong led by Northwest Cellars owner Bob Delf, people living with dementia and their care partners can look forward to a relaxed afternoon of socializing and learning about the art of winemaking. Refreshments will be served, including non-alcoholic beverages. To register for this free event, RSVP to co-organizer Barb Higgins at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kirkland Performance Center (KPC) sets the stage for the third pilot program—a dementia-friendly improv workshop on Monday, November 25, from 10:30 – 11:30 a.m. Executive director Jeff Lockhart and the center’s board of directors are enthusiastic about opening their doors to community-inclusive dementia-friendly programs.
Taproot Theatre’s Pam Nolte, a founding member of Momentia Seattle, will facilitate the KPC program. Pam started the first dementia-friendly improv theatre workshop in Washington state. Under her guidance, the program has been going strong for over 10 years. Improv theater workshops—or “creative play,” as Nolte calls it—are designed for people with early stage memory loss. “There is no memory requirement, just the delight of participating in a creative experience that releases the imagination while giving a sense of accomplishment, self-confidence and social enrichment,” she said.
For program details and to register for this free event, contact Cheryl Guenther at jeffersonhouseED@koelschsenior.com or call 425-410-0944.
Want to engage with dementia-friendly programs on the Eastside? Along with these new pilot programs, Eastside opportunities include a monthly Alzheimer’s Café at Tutta Bella (Bellevue), a community chorus at North Bellevue Community Center, and ballroom dance lessons at Arthur Murray Dance Schools (Bellevue). Stay up to date on these programs and others throughout the region by taking a look at the calendar of events on the shared Momentia website.
Contributor Cheryl Guenther is executive director of the Jefferson House Memory Care Community in Kirkland, Washington, and a proud member of the group working to expand the Momentia movement to the Eastside.
Photo credit (top): The first Momentia Eastside event was a Bellevue Botanical Garden Walk and Art Program in September 2019. Photo courtesy of Momentia.
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