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Nation’s First Dementia-Friendly Parks and Rec Program Flourishes in Seattle

Something amazing happened this year….Seattle became the first city in the nation to launch dementia friendly programming through Parks and Recreation.  Marigrace Becker, who advocated for and conceptualized the program, explained to The Seattle Channel, “Seattle itself is very progressive when it comes to thinking about dementia. I just figured…it must be everywhere throughout the nation…I’m hoping to inspire other Parks and Recreation departments.” Based on the early success of dementia friendly recreation programming other cities are sure to be impressed.

What is dementia friendly programming? More long walks said one man at the January 2015 kickoff event . More dancing, offered another. They likely participated in one of the initial programs Seattle piloted  in 2014 such as the Memory Loss Zoo Walk or watercolor painting at the Japanese Garden. Those outings were the model for expanded programming in 2015 funded by the new Parks district, created by voters last year.

Marigrace Becker’s vision for a vibrant dementia friendly community served by a broad range of services  in Seattle is outlined in her blog Momentia: a new dementia story. Innovative service programs and events in Seattle grew quickly drawing on her inspiration and empowering people locally.  The new Parks and Recreation program of dementia friendly recreation produces and coordinates quarterly events with local organizations such as: Elderwise, Frye Museum, Greenwood Senior Center, Woodland Park Zoo,  Alzheimer’s Association, Taproot Theatre and Full Life Care . The dementia friendly Parks and Recreation department strengthens services for memory loss in Seattle and highlights the fact that large numbers of  people with early stage dementia are living active social lives. It’s estimated that as many as 150,000 people in Washington state cope with dementia. They’re loved and supported by approximately 350,000 family members and caregivers. “Momentia declares the new dementia story, a story not of fear, isolation, despair, futility and loss, but a story of hope, connection, growth, purpose and courage,” Becker wrote.

Where can you find dementia friendly events? Parks and Recreation sponsors a calendar of events with days and times for programs such as weekly fitness at Miller Community Center or monthly visits to Rainier Beach Urban Farm and Wetlands. You’ll also find links to calendars of events at Senior Centers and organizations that program for memory loss support at the Parks and Recreation website. Have you considered attending an Alzheimer’s Cafe? Find that calendar here. At With A Little Help we post a monthly calendar of city wide events for people with memory loss and their caregivers. You’ll also find links to support groups for Parkinson’s, ALS, and other related conditions. Social worker Carin Mack posts a calendar of events at Greenwood Senior Center which include a book discussion group, improv class and song circle. Find an event or post one yourself at the community owned Momentia calendar.  Don’t use the internet? Cayce Cheairs of Seattle Lifelong Recreation is always happy to help you find a dementia friendly event. You can reach her by phone at: 206 615 0100 or email her as cayce.cheairs@nullseattle.gov

In the first year of operation the Parks and Recreation’s dementia friendly department already sees 50-60 people, including volunteers and caregivers, at the events they produce quarterly according to Dementia Friendly Recreation Specialist, Cayce Cheairs.  On behalf of Parks and Recreation Cheairs welcomes all to this month’s event:

The 2nd Annual “dementia-friendly”Talent Show!
Saturday, April 25, 2 p.m.-4 p.m. at Northgate Community Center 10510 5th ave N.E. Seattle

All talents welcome—song, music, skits, dance, circus acts, jokes, story-telling, poetry, magic tricks, or more. You’re welcome to perform solo, or together as a family, with a friend, or with a group. Artwork or photography will also be displayed. So get creative, have some fun and let your talents shine!
Enjoy the debut of the “Momentia Strum and Drum Band,” a performance of the original song “Our Time has Come” by the Greenwood Senior Center’s Gathering Place, watercolor paintings by Elderwise participants, and more!
$3 suggested donation at the door. Refreshments provided.
Space is limited. Sign up by 4/23 to attend, perform or display artwork, and to reserve van transportation from Beacon Hill: Cayce Cheairs (206) 615-0100 cayce.cheairs@nullseattle.gov.
Especially for people living with dementia, family and friends throughout Seattle.
Northgate Community Center
10510 5th Ave NE

In the Parks and Recreation  Winter 2015 Lifelong Recreation calendar Parks states, “We are proud to be part of the movement to transform what it means to live with dementia in our community.” By recognizing and serving citizens coping with dementia Parks and Recreation embraces the goal of empowerment and helps to create an inclusive  intergenerational society.  Come join us! When you’re ready to step out consider stepping into the active Seattle community of people with memory loss, their families and caregivers.

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