Marlena Books: bridging the gap between a love of reading and dementia

Rachel reading to her grandmother

Rachel reading to her grandmother

Seeing an opportunity and seizing it is one of the first steps to creating a successful entrepreneurial venture. For Rachel Thompson, a graduate from the faculty of Applied Health Sciences and alumna of St. Paul's GreenHouse, her leap into entrepreneurship began when her grandmother, a lover of books, was diagnosed with dementia. Seeing that the only dementia-friendly books on the market were aimed at children, Rachel created Marlena Books. The company aims to deliver more suitable reading material to those with dementia.

Reading is associated with many positive social and cognitive benefits including improved mood, improved sleep, improved short term memory, reduced stress, and can keep the brain cognitively active to slow decline in some cases."

Named in tribute to Rachel's grandmothers, Marilyn and Helena, Marlena Books aspires to make reading enjoyable again for those with dementia by focusing on simplifying stories, adding thicker pages, and getting individuals with dementia to create the artwork included in the books through local art therapy programs. The books are short, with stories that focus on topics interesting to the demographic, such as hockey or gardening.

Example of a Marlena book

Examples of a Marlena Books

Starting the company was about family and opening the conversation around dementia and the stigmas associated with it.  Rachel wanted to positively influence the lives of individuals living with dementia and their families.

I am most proud of the positive response Marlena Books has received. Knowing the idea of Marlena Books has now transformed into a physical product that positively influence lives is something I take great pride in. By allowing individuals with dementia to continue doing something they love, such as reading, they are able to feel more comfortable in light of many other changes.”

For Rachel, sharing her story is more then just awareness for dementia. It’s also about showing students what’s possible when you put your mind to it.

At the University of Waterloo innovation and entrepreneurship is everywhere. I want to get the Marlena Books story out there to hopefully inspire other Waterloo students to pursue entrepreneurship in any degree, and that you do not need to be limited by the nature of your innovation.“

To learn more about Marlena Books and the work they’re doing, follow them on Twitter, Facebook, or check out their website.

Have an idea for a company or need entrepreneurial guidance? Check out one of the many on-campus resources.

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