July 17, 2024 Donate

Chelsea, Dexter, Milan, Saline

Best Life Spring Festival Gives a Reprieve for Those with Dementi

By Carleen Nelson-Nesvig

A unique event unfolded on Saturday, May 11, 2024, in Saline that brought a momentary pause to the challenges faced by those living with dementia and their families. Organized by Dementia Friendly Saline, the inaugural “Best Life Spring Festival” offered a variety of fun and engaging activities.

Jim Mangi, the Founder and Chair of Dementia Friendly Saline, a dedicated 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, has firsthand experience with the impact of dementia through his beloved wife, Kathleen. He describes the condition as looking through a foggy lens, where familiar traits morph into exaggerated versions of themselves, creating a picture of gradual distortion.

“Dementia often robs individuals of self-awareness, leaving them unable to recognize their own abnormal behaviors,” explains Mangi. “This loss translates into frustration rather than fear, confusion over misplaced objects, and altered routines that fuel distress and foster mistrust among family members. The disorienting and isolating effects of dementia significantly impair cognitive and social abilities, plunging affected individuals and their caretakers into a realm of confusion and sorrow.”

Despite the prolonged battles with this condition, Dementia Friendly Saline strives to offer temporary escapes that allow families to relive memories, enjoy activities together, and share laughter and love. For a moment during these events, time seems to stand still, and everything appears wonderful again.

Dementia Friendly Saline is the only organization of its kind in Michigan currently catering to a significant population within the community. The group organizes various activities aimed at providing family ‘break aways.’ These include dementia-friendly shopping experiences, monthly Memory Cafes, movie outings, and annual workshops. On May 11th, the organization introduced its newest initiative, “The Spring Festival,” which offered a rich array of activities designed to engage and entertain.

The festival saw significant attendance, including Saline’s Mayor Brian Marl, who spent considerable time engaging with the activities, which ranged from juggling demonstrations and craft displays to performances by the Saline High School Jazz Band and Celtic tunes from Fiddle Pie. The event also featured panel discussions with individuals living with dementia and their caregivers, providing valuable insights into their daily experiences and challenges.

Local politicians, like Council Member Jean Harmount, showed their support and expressed hopes of making the festival an annual event. The festival not only highlighted the talents within the community, such as the impromptu musical trio formed by local musicians Cat Canyon, Mary, and Eric but also revealed hidden talents, like a high school volunteer who delivered a rendition of “Let It Be.”

As the day progressed, the festival turned into a lively dance, with attendees spanning four generations taking to the dance floor.

Events like the Spring Festival by Dementia Friendly Saline offer vital respite and joyful interludes for families grappling with the realities of dementia, proving that even amidst challenging times, community support and shared moments can bring significant relief and happiness.