Greenwood Senior Center staff member Cayce Cheairs stood before dozens of Seattle seniors at Seattle Parks and Recreation’s dementia-friendly programming “Momentia!” kickoff on Tuesday, Jan. 27, and asked them what they wished for in the coming year.
More longs walks, replied one man. More dancing, said a woman. More time with the people here in this room, said another.
“Can you feel the hope in the room?” Cheairs asked the crowd.
Seattle Parks created a pilot program for dementia-friendly recreation in 2014 in response to the growing number of community members living with memory loss and the firm belief that people living with memory loss should remain a vital part of our community. This January marked the program’s official launch.
“We’re taking something that’s traditionally only been offered through medical facilities and we’re looking at it differently,” said Cheryl Brown, a member of Seattle Parks Lifelong Recreation staff.
Seattle Parks is one of the few Parks and Recreation departments in the country that has taken the discussion of memory loss from simple informational classes to embracing opportunities for connection, creativity, giving back and being active. Last year, “Momentia” participants joined in snow shoeing field trips, volunteering at the Rainier Beach Urban Farm and Wetlands and Cherry Street Food Bank, overnight camp at West Seattle’s Camp Long, watercolor painting, walks at the Japanese Garden and Woodland Park Zoo, Mariners’ games and more.
With the official launch of the program in 2015, Seattle Parks is working with a variety of local partners to offer more engaging programs.
The “Momentia” kickoff celebration was held at Lake Union’s China Harbor Restaurant and included an improv theater experience from Taproot Theatre Company, a musical performance from the Greenwood Senior Center’s Gathering Place program members and karaoke.
“Momentia is all about a celebration of life,” Lifelong Recreation Specialist Mari Becker said. “It’s about people saying we’re still here, and we have gifts to give the community.”
Becker spearheaded Seattle Parks’ dementia-friendly recreation effort. She said she wanted to change the story surrounding memory loss from one of fear to one of hope.
“Mari has a kind heart and a bright spirit,” dementia-friendly recreation participant Paul Padilla said. “This program has made our journey so much easier to travel.”
As Seattle Parks starts programming this year, the activities will be mainly geared toward persons living with Early Stage Memory Loss. Friends and family are also welcome to get involved and staff can help determine which programs might be a good fit within Seattle Parks’ offerings and among the other options available in the community.
For more information on dementia-friendly recreation, please visit http://www.seattle.gov/parks/Seniors/dementiafriendlyrecreation.htm.