“Individuals living with dementia are the ones who have the most authentic narrative around it.” This is the simple yet powerful message that Marigrace Becker, University of Washington Memory and Brain Wellness Center Manager of Community Education, conveys about a unique grassroots movement in the Seattle area known by the fitting moniker of “Momentia.”
Formed as a coalition of “community partners,” Momentia’s purpose is to empower people with memory loss and their care partners to remain connected and active in the community. Becker, who is one of its founding allies and wrote several blog posts on Momentia for ChangingAging, notes that central to the movement’s philosophy is its positive perspective on dementia and a collective determination “to transform what it means to live with dementia in the community—thus changing the story from one of despair to one of hope.”
The focus on inclusivity and its affirmative outlook hold strong appeal for Mary Firebaugh, who was diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment two years ago. Before Momentia, Firebaugh says she was involved in other dementia-friendly activities that typically included only people with memory loss and their care partners. “No one else was invited to join the activities,” she says. “It made me aware that Momentia was more positive and inclusive of both people with memory loss as well as the community as a whole; they have a new way of viewing activities for people with memory loss.”
Firebaugh now participates in a range of Momentia activities—the drumming circle and folk dancing are “wonderful,” she says. “So much of it includes activity and music and fun, and you don’t have to have a particular skill to enjoy it,” she adds. “I’ve also done some of the arts activities, which are great, and I like the walks as well.”
The organized walks, which take participants to different parts of Seattle, are usually preceded by social activities that “seem to work well and help people to get to know each other and relax and have fun,” Firebaugh says.
Camp Momentia, an annual day-long event that includes nature tours, a barbeque, sing-alongs, and a campfire, is a favorite among participants, and was especially enjoyable for Firebaugh.
“The word Momentia, to me, is so much more celebratory and friendly,” says Firebaugh, adding that the “moment” in Momentia “emphasizes that we can celebrate the moment and live in the moment—it feels like an explosion of energy.”
Founded about 4 years ago, Momentia appears to be running on its own steam, with the help of about a dozen committed and dedicated individuals, Becker says.
So what is it about Seattle that makes it so community-friendly? “We tend to be a little bit more non-bureaucratic in nature and more inclusive and also more grassroots oriented,” Becker adds.
Whatever the secret sauce is—maybe it’s the coffee—it’s working for Momentia. The Momentia website, which was designed by people living with dementia in partnership with local web designers, includes: a calendar of events, meetings, and gatherings facilitated by nearly two dozen local organizations; a page that describes, step-by-step, how to create an activity; among other things, are touted by participants as a very user-friendly site.
In the works are some new activities, Becker notes. One of which is the “Our Time Has Come” workshop series. This spring individuals will come together to design a community activism project. “We want to enable persons living with memory loss to share their perspectives on developing new programs that would be interesting to them,” says Becker.
Follow Momentia on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MomentiaSeattle/