My mother-in-law, Trish, and I shared a special connection with magazines. Our experience caring for her is a big reason why we created a dementia-friendly magazine.
Before we started Songs & Smiles (see Our Story), I worked for a magazine for more than 20 years, and Trish always looked forward to seeing our latest issue. When I would sit with her in the waiting room at the doctor’s office, we enjoyed flipping through the pages of whatever magazines were at hand.
After we had to move Trish to a memory care facility, we continued to subscribe to her favorite monthly magazine, and I had the joy of delivering it to her at the start of every month. Her eyes lit up when she saw each new issue.
For people living with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia, magazines are familiar and comfortable. As part of our current programming, I regularly visit memory care facilities in the Dallas-Fort Worth area to lead singalongs, helping residents connect with music and memories. I often see residents with magazines … sometimes reading them, sometimes looking at pictures, sometimes just holding them.
Reading, like music, is deeply rooted in long-term memory. Typical magazines, however, present significant challenges for people living with dementia. Crowded pages can be hard to decipher. Small type and low-contrast colors can be hard to see. Current events can be disorienting.
Print affirms human connection. It conveys permanence, credibility, and authenticity. The printed page is patient. It allows time for readers to connect at their own pace. Carefully crafted pages help readers fully engage with words and ideas.
Connections are at the heart of Songs & Smiles. Our official mission statement is “Keeping Families Connected During the Alzheimer’s Journey.” We knew the right kind of magazine could help people living with dementia connect with memories and emotions. We also knew the magazine could help families connect with each other. Those connections are the main reason why we created a dementia-friendly magazine.
We spent almost two years researching, planning, and brainstorming. I talked with former colleagues in the magazine industry, and I talked with family and professional dementia caregivers. Producing a quality magazine also takes money, so we spent time fundraising. Many generous donors have contributed to this project, and we are so excited that this magazine has now become a reality.
This month, we published our first issue of Joyful Memories. Initial response has been overwhelmingly positive, and we are already working on the next issue. We’ve already distributed magazines at local memory care facilities, and we’ve mailed magazines to caregivers all around the country. It’s just the beginning, but we’re committed to building on this start.
I’ve given copies to residents who attend our singalong shows. Just this morning, I gave a copy to two ladies who always sit next to each other. I’ve seen them look at each other and smile, and one of the ladies sings along with many of the songs. I wasn’t sure, however, that the other lady could talk. Now I know: she can talk, and she can read. I saw her as she pointed out a single-panel cartoon on the humor page, then read the caption to her friend. Then they both looked at each other and laughed.
Those two ladies, those kinds of connections are why we created a dementia-friendly magazine. Those ladies also make me think of Trish. As we were working on this magazine, she was always on our minds. We know she would be pleased. In fact, we know she would have loved reading this magazine over and over again.
People need this, and families will benefit from this. We have funding already in place for our next three issues, and we have a roadmap for our first 30 issues. With every page of every issue, we’re working to create opportunities for families to experience new moments of joy and connection.