A Dementia Friendly Day at The Movies Watching Mamma Mia


By: Carleen Nelson-Nesvig, STN Writer

Dementia Friendly Saline (DFS) and Emagine Dementia Friendly (EDF) have done it again! This time, for a fun outing to see the fun, romantic musical Mamma Mia.

Imagine struggling cognitively but being treated like royalty when you pull up to the theatre entrance. Someone is waiting there to help with walkers, wheelchairs, canes, wraps, sweaters, jackets, and get you to the door safely. It’s Dementia Friendly Reverse Valet service. Their purple-hatted greeters attend to you as the guest of honor while your driver parks the vehicle.

Once inside, greeters give you a souvenir name badge, a souvenir program, and invite you to the goodie bag table where you will find an assortment of items donated by local organizations, free for the taking. These items can be as simple as a pen or pencil or informative as a caregiver’s guide. A variety of booklets and brochures are also available to point out resources providing information about dementia and dementia care. Then, it is off to the theatre entrance with your greeter, following the purple footprints leading to the correct theater.

DFS has supplied Emagine with a set of portable wheelchair ramps to enable persons in wheelchairs and those with walkers to safely access upper and lower seating rows.

Next comes the short trip to the complimentary food tables, starting with popcorn and sodas. Then to the delicious munchies waiting for you at the head table which include healthy items like fruit, and pinwheel sandwiches. Cookies complete the snack for those with a sweet tooth. After a visit with other attendees, it is up to your seat and a comfy recliner that allows you to lean back with your feet up and enjoy the musical to come.

Just as the show is about to begin, DFS and EDF encourage participants to sing along with the Mamma Mia tunes by banging tambourines and disco dancing to the first song.

What do attendees say about this theatrical opportunity? Susan McClanahan and husband Bill Zimmerman share that this has been their fourth program. (Fred Astaire, See me in St. Louie, Grease and now Mamma Mia). According to Bill, the Dementia partners (DFS and EDF), choose movies that work for everyone, they have a simple plot, and there are a lot of volunteers to make life easy for us. 

“We come here from Brookdale," adds Suzanne, “there is nothing like this where we live. The staff is amazing. They bring the memory care folks in a van and that gives them an opportunity to socialize before the show. One of the times we came, another couple told us they had not been out together for one-and-a-half years. I cry, every time I think about it. People do not understand what it means to us to have this.”

Peter and Marie Finney said, “The movies are wonderful, the staff is thoughtful, the snacks and beverages are delicious, and we will be here while these movies keep going on.”

During the show visitors can talk, sing, clap, tap, sway, and get up and dance. There is even someone to walk you to the restroom or help you find a quiet place to relax for a while. If you save your admission ticket (and everyone does), you are eligible for a door prize. We are not giving away what that is.

If you like the sound of all this, the Dementia Friendly Movie events are held the second Wednesday of every month. October 11 – Pajama Game; November 8th – Showboat; December 13th –White Christmas. For future titles (January and beyond) Dementia Friendly Saline and Emagine would welcome suggestions.

Want even more fun? Join the Dementia Friendly Memory Café twice a month. This free social event for persons with dementia and their care partners will help you connect with others on this journey. There is entertainment, engaging activities, food, and camaraderie along with useful caregiver information. It is in the Social Hall of Holy Faith Church, 6299 Ann Arbor Saline Road, Saline or by Zoom. Contact Lori Venable at Itvenable@att.net

Photos by Carleen Nelson Nesvig

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