With my first week over in Seattle also known as the Emerald City
(due to the wonderful greenery throughout the city), it’s time to reflect on what has been a very busy but immensely enriching experience on both a professional and personal level.
My first meeting was with the wonderful Marigrace Becker, Programme Manager for Community Education & Impact at the University of Washington, Medicine and Brain Wellness Centre. MariGrace is behind the inception of Momentia Seattle, a wonderful movement whose mission is to (and I make no apologies of using their description on the website as it sums it up really well:)
‘transform what it means to live with dementia, to change the story from one of fear, despair and isolation to one of hope, growth, purpose and connection.
It celebrates the courage and strengths of people living with dementia and creates innovative opportunities for engagement in and with community. A story of living fully and boldly and finding joy in the moment’. Very much challenging the efforts of what Kate Swaffer describes as ‘prescribed disengagement’ upon diagnosis of dementia.
There are many different activities and opportunities on offer and I opted to spend some time at one of the biggest food banks in Seattle which distributes food to over 4,500 people in Seattle each day. “Remember the Hungry” is a monthly volunteer programme for people living with dementia who help out packaging and sorting food for distribution. People are welcome to come with partners, spouses, friends and family or just by themselves.
Charlie Reidy the co-facilitator of the programme introduced me to folks and encouraged me to spend time with each person taking it in turns with my partner to scoop rice into a bag or seal it up. What really struck me was the positive energy in the room, light conversations, laughter and sense of connectedness between all. I wasn’t the only one new on that day and everyone was so supportive and encouraging towards each other.
People volunteered to share their stories about their lived experience of dementia and how the volunteer programme had given them meaning and the opportunity to give back to others. One gentleman told me about how the programme had given him the confidence to think about returning to work at the age of 74 years. A wonderful lady and her husband spoke about the joy and happiness they received from participating in such a programme and to live in the moment and not worry about where the dementia might lead them to.
The time with the programme ended all too quickly and saying my goodbyes I headed off to wander about downtown and take in some of the sites. Thought I was in San Francisco at times due to the steep gradient of some of the main roads down to the water- just as well Seattle seldom has snow or ice otherwise the city would grind to a halt!
Couldn’t resist visiting Pike Place Market and the world famous Pike Place Fish Company to witness the antics of staff and few flying fish! I remember many years ago NHS Highland held sessions on the FISH philosophy which uses Pike Place Fishmongers as a great example to demonstrate how people can be energised and motivated at work regardless of what they do. Would be great to revisit this perhaps?
Looking forward to meeting up with the wider team from the University of Washington, Medicine and Brain Wellness centre, Frye Art Museum and Momentia Seattle Ambassor Team.