Simplified Stories for Early Dementia Sufferers

Alzheimerliga, the Alzheimer League in Belgium, working with DDB Brussels, has won the Design Grand Prix at the Epica Awards for “Simplified Stories”. The Simplified Stories is a series of simplified books designed to motivate people with early onset dementia to keep on reading. The project was launched with the condensed version of Peter Verbruggen’s biography of pop star Paul Van Haver, “Maestro Stromae”, published by Borgerhoff & Lamberigts. Stromae’s popularity also appeals to children/grandchildren who can read the book together with the person who has dementia. Alzheimerliga and DDB Brussels worked with a regional expert dementia centre, Paradox and Professor Sebastian Engelborghs (University of Antwerp), to make reading easier and more enjoyable. By simplifying a book, there are fewer elements to remember. The core of the story and the book remain, but in the first book in the series, nearly 8,000 words have been removed from the biography. The layout, font and structure have also been adjusted, and a brief summary of each chapter is also available.

Maestro Stromae Simplified Stories

“Why? Because it helps,” says the director of the Alzheimer League, Hilde Lamers. “Reading trains both the memory and the use of language. People with (early-onset) dementia gradually lose their cognitive abilities. They not only have memory problems but also suffer from language disorders. It means that they often stop reading books. People with (early-onset) dementia can easily lose the thread of a story, forgetting what they read the day before, or the story behind a particular character. It’s very frustrating, so most people stop reading altogether. Despite the fact that reading is the perfect way to train one’s memory and retain language skills.”

Simplified Stories board

Simplified Stories Elements

Simplified style

No difficult words, yet without the reader feeling that it’s too easy
Shorter sentences
No long chapters
7,738 words have been removed – that’s 37% of the book
Just four main characters

Logical structure

A logical structure so that the reader can follow the story in chronological order

Uncluttered layout

Larger and more readable typography
More white space between paragraphs
Less text on one page
Photographs, so that the reader can follow the story better
A clear indication as to which chapter the reader is reading

Reminders

A brief summary – approximately 66 words on average – of the previous chapter at the beginning of each chapter
At the bottom of each page, there’s a short sentence (on average 7 words) that summarizes what’s on the page

Simplified Stories Credits

The Simplified Stories project was developed at DDB Brussels by creative directors Peter Ampe and Odin Saillé, copywriter Bart Van Goethem, art director Stefan van de Boogaard, creative Tim Arts, graphic designer Marlène Wautot, account manager Silvie Erzeel, account executive Anneleen Vande Voorde, PR manager Kenn Van Lijsebeth, working with Alzheimerliga.

Film production was by Thinkfish Media. Photography was by Adam Kozlowski.