Alice Padilla’s laugh cut through the air at Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo. Fresh off an hour-long exhibit tour, she and 16 other friends sat in the zoo cafeteria, snacking on sugar cookies and mocking current bestsellers. The group could appear to be just another cluster of friends visiting the zoo. But they were there for another purpose, too: to provide joy as much as support. Part of a program called Momentia, more than half of the people in the group have dementia.
The day was, in effect, an act of defiance for the 63-year-old Padilla, who was diagnosed with dementia two years ago. By living wholly in the present, Padilla is fighting a disease that threatens to rob her of her memory.
The zoo trip was just one of a series of Seattle-area group activities, from strum and drum bands and rap performances to cafe talks and public policy advocacy, organized for Momentia members. Marigrace Becker, the program manager for the University of Washington Medicine Memory and Brain Wellness Center, co-founded Momentia three years ago to challenge the misconceptions typically associated with dementia.