Social enterprise goes digital to close a dementia support gap
Award-winning reading platform serves up accessible e-books for people living with dementia
Award-winning reading platform serves up accessible e-books for people living with dementiaBy University Relations
One in five Canadians has cared for someone living with dementia. They have also experienced stress, stigma, and difficulty finding the right services and support for those they love.
Rachel Thompson (BSc ’15) understands. When her grandmother was diagnosed, Rachel wanted to help her to continue to do something she loved: read. It sounds simple enough, but it wasn’t. Rachel couldn’t find age-appropriate material for people living with cognitive difficulties. So, she decided to do something about it.
In 2015, Rachel started Marlena Books. Her social startup creates books specifically designed for adults with dementia and other cognitive impairments. Now in its third year, Marlena Books has expanded to offer an award-winning digital app with accessibility features like graduated reading levels, personalization, audio support and automatic page turning.
We believe this app has the potential to impact millions of people living with dementia, and their families
Reading materials and recreational tools like these are increasingly important as the number of people living with cognitive diseases like dementia and Alzheimer’s increases by 25,000 per year.
Rachel says, “Families who are facing a dementia diagnosis are looking for tools to improve quality of life, to connect, and to keep relationships strong.” It's these families and their stories that keep Rachel focused on the future of healthy aging.
The University of Waterloo acknowledges that much of our work takes place on the traditional territory of the Neutral, Anishinaabeg and Haudenosaunee peoples. Our main campus is situated on the Haldimand Tract, the land granted to the Six Nations that includes six miles on each side of the Grand River. Our active work toward reconciliation takes place across our campuses through research, learning, teaching, and community building, and is centralized within our Indigenous Initiatives Office.