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Bill Nighy Narrates Audiobook for People with Dementia

By Sarah Frideswide

Cognitive Books was founded by Matt Singleton when he realised that there were no books on the market catered specifically for people with Dementia and Alzheimer's. Matt is a Gerontologist (someone who studies the ageing process) and his dad has Alzheimer's. Since Matt couldn’t find any books on the market which enabled his dad to enjoy reading like he had done in the past, he created his own. 

There has long been evidence that mentally stimulating activities over the course of one’s lifetime can delay or prevent the onset of Dementia. There is also evidence that reading, and similar activities like crosswords, can help to slow the progress of the disease in those who already have it. 

In the UK, one in eleven people aged over sixty-five have Dementia, and since it estimated that half of us will be affected by it – either by caring for someone with the disease, or by developing it ourselves – it is surprising this is the first time that books have been created to facilitate reading for people with Dementia and Alzheimer's. Until now, it was difficult to find a way for them to read, even though the cognitive and social benefits of reading can be profound. The website of the Alzheimer's Society recommends using books which are shorter and more concise, for a friend or carer to read to the person with Dementia, or for them to listen to podcasts or audiobooks instead. Now, thanks to Matt Singleton and Cognitive Books, people with Dementia and Alzheimer's have a way to continue reading for themselves as well as enjoying the social aspects of reading with someone they love. 

Cognitive Books have started working with Bill Nighy who will narrate a free audio version of the forthcoming title Looking Back at the Beatles, set to be released in April. In 2017 Bill Nighy voiced a television ad for the Alzheimer’s Society, to bring awareness to the devastating nature of this disease. He himself suffers from a hereditary condition called Dupuytren’s Contracture, which means that two fingers on each of his hands are contracted in towards the palm. As most people know, Nighy became prominent when he played the ageing rockstar Billy Mack in Love Actually in 2003, but he had been an actor for many years before that. 

Bill Nighy said, “I was grateful to be given an opportunity to help in any small way with this dreadful condition that afflicts so many of us directly or indirectly. I hope these books can be a valuable addition to the treatment already in place and bring the same satisfaction that they might in normal circumstances. I salute those involved in this project.”

A Cognitive Book includes exercises to help the reader engage with the material in it. Each page can work as a story on its own, and includes a measured dose of information so as not to overwhelm the person reading. They are written about subjects which the audience are likely to be interested in and enjoy. For example, the subject of the Beatles has been designed to stimulate Reminiscence – the engaging of long-term memories which the Dementia sufferer still has access to, even though their short-term memory is in decline. The Alzheimer's Society has praised Cognitive Books and their work, choosing Cognitive Books to be their partner for their Accelerator Programme last year. The Accelerator Programme aims to “support people in developing and accelerating their product and service innovations to deliver help and hope to people living with Dementia.”

Given how popular reading is as a hobby and how prevalent Dementia is in the population, Cognitive Books are going to be worth keeping an eye on as they start to produce more titles. It is to be expected that they will become sought after as they start to become more well known. 



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