May 09, 2023

Dementia-friendly event provides fun, entertainment, and sense of belonging for an often-overlooked segment of our community

Baby shark…doo doo doo doo!

Baby shark …doo doo doo doo!

Have you ever watched a movie at the Emagine Theater in Saline? Then you have most likely sung along with Emagine’s owner Paul Glantz during the previews as he sings one of the most catchy and addictive songs about a baby shark I’ve ever heard. And while it is a hilarious and brilliant approach to advertising, what has never been lost to me is how Paul always follows it up by mentioning the values of the organization and how they work to show up in the community. Once the movie started, I would forget about that messaging (not the song though!) and move on.

Jim Mangi, Executive Director of Dementia Friendly Saline

That all changed recently when I had coffee with Jim Mangi, Executive Director of Dementia Friendly Saline, and learned what can happen when two values-driven organizations work together Jim shared with me the power cinema and song can have on those living with dementia. He then laid out his vision for AAACF grant funding to offer movie events at Emagine, where caregivers and their loved ones can come together in a dementia-friendly setting. This includes curbside greeters, welcome table for easy ticketing, and “soft sound and lighting” in the theater.

His design sounded so simple and yet brilliant, and I asked him when he planned to start. Jim’s response was, “What do you mean start? We have already started!”

Jim proceeded to tell me the story of working with Emagine to make his vision a reality. As I listened to him, I kept waiting to hear about the difficulties in making the event happen. But such challenges were never mentioned. Instead, it was the exact opposite. From choosing what movies to show and what time to host the event, to providing food options, Emagine worked with Jim to co-create the best event possible for those living with dementia and their caregivers. Then Jim shared with me something that I was not expecting. He told me how Trevor Baker, Emagine’s COO, asked if Jim could provide training for their staff around supporting those living with dementia while at the event.

And that is when I had my “baby shark” moment. While this could have just been another movie event, Emagine used it as a way educate their staff and institutionalize training to better support their community.

So, what happens when two values-driven organizations come together? Magic. The inaugural event went off without a single hitch. Participants from all over Washtenaw County and even Ohio attended. Connections were made between caregivers. There was laughter, smiles, and lots of popcorn eaten. And everyone wanted to know when the next event was going to happen.

A friendly day at the movies - DFS help desk

When talking to Trevor about the event, he shared with me that is exactly how their organization wants to support the communities they operate in and that he is very excited to see how these go moving forward. While still in the early stages of development, he talked about how Emagine is very open to seeing how this event and the staff training can be scaled to their other locations.

Which begs the questions: What happens if one of the largest movie chains in the United States embraces a dementia-friendly approach to their work? What positive impacts will happen in our communities? And what other businesses will follow in their footsteps?

The AAACF is here to support the vision of Jim and Emagine – as well as other organizations inspired to follow their lead in creating a community that is truly welcoming to all members and enables us all to thrive.

By Chris Lemon, Senior Community Investment Officer

We are here to be your partner in making that impact happen in our community. See all the areas we are supporting needs in Washtenaw County.