Scroll Down Scroll Up

Libraries and people with dementia

Libraries provide a wealth of resources for all ages and can be particularly useful and engaging for older people including people living with dementia.

An aim of this year’s Library and Information Week is to re-engage with your local library – so why not check out what’s on offer and think about how the supports and connections might help you to live more positively with dementia.


Accessing information, entertainment, technology and genealogy

Libraries are not just for books. In fact, libraries and librarians can help you to access a range of information and entertainment, and much of it for free. For example, you can access:

  • Fiction (including large print) and non-fiction books
  • Audio books and eBooks
  • Music (CDs)
  • Movies (Videos and DVDs)
  • Computer, printing, scanning and photocopying services
  • Magazines and newspapers
  • Local studies and stories (including images and history)
  • Outreach services including assisted borrowing or home delivery of your borrowed items.

Some libraries even employ a Family History Librarian and can assist you to research your family history. For example the National Library of Australia and the State Library of NSW have family history research resource. Why not consider whether starting a project like this could be of interest to you. Doing this type of research is a great way to keep your brain active and make new connections.


Making social connections

Whilst information sharing is a primary role, public libraries are also important places for people to gather, relax and connect with one another and their community. Many local libraries act as venues or convene social groups for older people such as:

  • sessions to support you use computers/mobile phones
  • film appreciation groups
  • craft groups
  • book clubs
  • other educational programs.

Some libraries provide a book-club service with either online book club access or printed kits that can be borrowed for a set period.


Dementia specific resources

Some libraries also have specific sessions and resources for people living with dementia, such as Newcastle Library’s Memory Room project with information sessions with an art therapist, and memory boxes available for loan. These memory boxes are each based on different topics with resources specifically designed to spark memories, stimulate conversation and provide entertainment.

Some libraries offer dementia collections with a range of materials like photobooks, puzzles, tools, and other objects designed to provide stimulation and keep the mind active. See for example, the Eastern Regional Libraries of Victoria which offer dementia care kits including a reminiscing kit (to prompt memories of the past); a sensory kit (items that can be held and handled to prompt the senses) and an activity kit (items that can be ‘played’ with such as games, etc).


Accessing Dementia Friendly places and spaces

More public libraries across Australia are becoming dementia friendly. They are working with people with lived experience of dementia, and their carers and supporters, and working to create awareness about dementia and reduce stigma within their local communities.

To become dementia friendly, the library staff undertake training and the library itself undergoes an environmental assessment is undertaken to ensure accessibility for people with dementia. If your local library hasn’t taken this step perhaps you could work with them to promote a more inclusive space for you and others in your community. To find out more visit: Dementia Friendly Australia.


Access Dementia Australia’s library and resources

Dementia Australia offer a national library service with access to a comprehensive collection of print and digital resources about dementia. The service supports people living with dementia, family carers and friends as well as people working in dementia care practice and allied health areas.

Dementia Australia’s extensive collection includes books, articles, audio resources, ebooks and DVDs. Resources include information on dementia care, as well as items written by carers and people living with dementia, dementia in fiction, resources for children, clinical information, and practical information for caregiving and living well with dementia.

You can register online to become a Dementia Australia Library user, and:

For more information, email or call the National Dementia Helpline 1800 100 500.


Reading as therapy

Reading for pleasure has been shown to slow cognitive decline and enhance life satisfaction, relationships, coping skills and attitudes to, as well as engagement with, learning. Reading allows the imagination to flourish, reduces stress and enhances empathy by bringing about a greater understanding of ourselves and others.

Shared Reading Groups began in the United Kingdom in the early 2000s with an award-winning social enterprise known as “The Reader”.  Shared reading groups are quite different to book clubs. People come together in public places, like libraries and community centres, with a trained facilitator. Everyone takes turns to read poems or novels aloud to the group and discuss the characters and actions as they go. Participants report shared reading groups help them increase their confidence, reduce social isolation and improve their emotional wellbeing and empathy.

An evaluation report of literature-based interventions for people living with dementia in the UK found that shared reading produces a significant reduction in dementia symptoms and benefits the quality of life of both residents and staff carers.

Shared Reading is gradually taking off in Australia. For more information, visit Shared Reading NSW.



For more information on this website

Consider the following articles on keeping mentally and socially active: