By Beth Lawrence
The Jackson County Public Library and the Fontana Regional Library system are unveiling a new library collection geared toward older residents facing cognitive decline.
The Memory Lane Collection is comprised of over 50 books, five DVDs and 12 jigsaw puzzles. It was curated for older adults and is now ready for checkout at all Fontana locations.
The set is designed to help those coping with cognitive issues continue to engage the world and people around them and stimulate memory. Despite the original intent, the collection is available to anyone interested in their subject matter.
Carlyn Morenus, branch librarian at Hudson Library in Highlands, worked with the N.C. Department on Aging, staff at area retirement centers, websites such as the Alzheimer’s Store, library staff and drew on her own experiences having a parent with Alzheimer’s to curate the collections for each library.
“The photographs in each book are vivid and beautiful,” Morenus said. “Some of the books, particularly the very large print titles, were originally designed for low-vision readers. Staff have greatly enjoyed the books in this collection, and they are being checked out by a full range of patrons. Anyone can enjoy the beautiful photography and the opportunities to reminisce.”
The set contains visually oriented large-print books with high-quality pictures that are less focused on deeper plotlines and in-depth storytelling, meaning fewer details that might confuse readers with a cognitive impairment. The books include both short fiction and picture books. Some titles included in the collection are: Everyday Fashions of the Fifties, Verses from the Bible: Illuminated by Stained Glass Windows, A Bevy of Blue, which is part of a series focused on one color presented in a variety of photographs, The Book of Vintage Cars, A Dusting of Snow, short fiction; The Splendor of Forests and Flower Gardens, a picture book.
“Memory Lane books are designed to spark interest, reminiscences, and conversations with family, friends or caregivers,” Morenus said.
The collection includes small and large jigsaw puzzles containing 35 to 300 pieces along with what the library calls ambient DVDs, with subjects such as puppies, sunsets and aquariums.
All libraries in the Fontana system have a similar collection and different titles can be checked out through interlibrary loan.
“Our decision to pursue this project has been some time in the making,” Morenus said.
The effort came about as a result of requests from library patrons hoping to help family members dealing with memory loss or other cognitive impairment
That was when library staff realized they did not have materials that would serve that demographic group. From that realization the idea for the collection was born.
“We have always had books to serve patrons beginning in infancy through childhood, teens, adulthood, and large print books for older eyes,” Morenus said. “But we lacked materials well-suited to those with memory loss, dementia, or who might be recovering from a stroke or other major illness.”
The materials can be used as a means to engage older family members’ memories and spark conversations to keep them engaged. The N.C. Department on Aging and staff at retirement communities Morenus consulted recommended the books, puzzles and DVDs and suggested using them as tools to activate memory and serve as discussion topics.
“Someone might see a dress in Everyday Fashions of the Fifties that looks just like one they wore, or their mom wore,” Morenus said. “That can start a whole conversation about activities they enjoyed or memories of special occasions brought back by seeing the image. Or a book of landscapes might be a pathway to a conversation about travels or living in a particular place.”
The books are being borrowed by professionals as well. One of the first loans was to an activities director at a retirement community
She checked out an Everyday Fashions book and a reproduction of a 1942 Sears Christmas catalog and planned to use them as conversations starters for her residents about Christmas, favorite fashions and what was worn on certain occasions, Morenus said.