March 25, 2023

It all started when Rachel Thompson’s grandmother Marilyn turned one of life’s corners and began living with dementia.

That journey inspired Thompson, 25, to create books for those living with Alzheimer’s and dementia — people not often thought about by libraries or book stores.

Thompson named the company after both her grandmothers — Marilyn and Helena — and that is how Marlena Books was named.

The books have unique fonts and spacing, with navigation cues and pictures to allow for memory retention to make it easy for readers to follow.

Jamie Kamula, manager of adult of services at Idea Exchange in Cambridge, says some of the books contains pictures but no words, while others do have a minimal amount of text. In both cases, images are abundant.

A lot dementia patients revert to reading children’s picture books, Kamula says, “which isn’t always the subject matter that an adult wants to read. So these books are really targeted to adults, but they have images.”

Visual cues at the end of the pages help readers focus and follow plot lines.

“The books have a simpler way for [readers] to know the characters,” Kamula said. “The reading isn’t very difficult, so it’s very easy to remember.”

The collection is available at Idea Exchange’s Queen’s Square location in Cambridge. Library patrons in Guelph, Kitchener or Waterloo area are able to borrow through their local libraries.

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