Queens Ledger: Program empowers locals with dementia

Queens Ledger: Program empowers locals with dementia | August 2022: The community of those living with dementia is often underestimated—due to the lack of representation and positivity surrounding the subject.

A Rego Park resident is trying to change that in her neighborhood and its surrounding communities through “Stories in the Moment,” a co-creative dance, movement and storytelling program designed for people living with dementia.

The initiative was founded by Magda Kaczmarska, a dancer, choreographer, teaching artist and creative aging advocate.

Kaczmarska dedicates her career to empowering individuals and advocating for brain health-related issues, as shown through her other efforts including “DanceStream Projects,” “Every Body Moves” and “BrainFM.”

She’s also a fellow at the Atlantic Institute, focusing on expanding access, confidence and agency around brain health.

“I created ‘Stories in the Moment’ out of a desire to really extend the resource of dance as a vehicle for connection, community building and storytelling,” Kaczmarska said.

“Dementia is a neurocognitive, degenerative condition. It influences people’s ability to feel like they can connect and communicate as fluidly as they may have in other points in their life, it might influence people’s fluidity in movement and it can influence memory,” she continued. “I think that dance can really be a unifying language, and can facilitate a democratic and equitable space for people to be able to connect, in community and in communication. In ‘Stories in the Moment,’ we connect around themes and topics that are really universal, and it can be as mundane as hobbies or favorite dishes in the kitchen, or it could be larger, like what community means for you.”

Although Kaczmarska initially formed “Stories in the Moment”  two years ago with Dementia Action Alliance, this local chapter was made possible for the Forest Hills, Rego Park and Kew Gardens communities through a partnership with Queens Community House, a nonprofit organization.

Wendy Kwan, director of Social Adult Day Services at QCH, said that the center is proud to partner with Kaczmarska and provide a home to localize her vision.

“Our mission is to really help the members of our community, to give them tools so that they can live successfully. I think Magda’s program really ties into that because it helps the members of our program who are physically frail or have memory loss to really engage with each other,” she said. “Even those that may have had a little harder time conducting on Zoom, we’ve seen them actually contribute to the programming in the ‘Stories in the Moment.’ So that’s been really exciting for me.”

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