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Library introduces Launchpad to assist patrons with Alzheimer’s, dementia

Tablets loaded with brain games that are designed to boost mental fitness have been distributed among all 21 branches and reading centers of the Ocean County Library as part of an initiative to serve patrons who are experiencing the effects of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

The Playaway Launchpad tablets, which do not require an individual to have internet or wi-fi access, are loaded with ready-to-use word games, puzzles, number challenges and tests of speed and logic suitable for individuals ranging from children and teens to adults,
according to a press release from the library system. Library patrons can check out a tablet for up to 28 days.

The program is a collaborative effort of the library’s Collections and Senior Services
departments.

“Anybody is welcome to come in and check out a tablet,” said Christi Aldellizzi, head of
collections for the library system. “We are just marketing it toward seniors, but I
anticipate these are going to be popular with all ages. I made sure we ordered games that are appropriate for all ages, it’s just the level of difficulty of the games that changes.”

The games on the tablet promote an individual’s cognitive health by challenging memory, reaction time, problem solving skills, observational skills, attention span and more.

“Our assistant director asked me to put some budget funds aside for memory materials and the head of senior services and I were trying to figure out how best to spend that money and best serve the population of older adults and those suffering with memory and dementia issues,” Aldellizzi said.

“We are always striving to enrich our underserved populations and bring new
materials to the forefront and I knew the company Findaway, where we get our
Launchpad [tablets], had … always marketed it toward children.

“I thought, ‘let me see if they offer anything for brain games,’ and they have an entire
collection of tablets with brain games on them. So we said, ‘We are going to buy a
whole bunch of these,’ ” she said.

According to Aldellizzi, the library’s Senior Services department adopted an initiative to become dementia-friendly and began Memory Cafes at some branches, and last year
purchased memory-friendly books – wordless picture books for adults that help jog their memory and give them something to talk about.

“We are very fortunate our county supports us and they are very generous with us,” she said, “so that’s where the whole project came from.”

“The library system purchased 233 tablets (a Launchpad costs between $100 and $150); 195 for all the branches, and the homebound department is going to get their own collection to circulate among life care centers,” Aldellizzi said.

Each Launchpad tablet comes preloaded with 10 to 12 games. The tablet must be kept charged and the library provides a USB wall charger.

“There is no login,” Aldellizzi explained, “and you can’t do anything else with the tablet
than what is was made for.

She said some games on a tablet are more advanced, while others are simpler and each tablet comes with a basic setup: calculator, solitaire and a memory game.

“Even if someone is just practice doing solitaire on it, it’s still bridging a technology gap,”
she noted.

Aldellizzi said she became aware of the need for the devices because several areas,
including senior services and volunteer services, share space at the main branch.

“We have a pretty open communication,” she said. “I am in communication with
branch services all the time, we are in constant communication with the branches
and the public service staff to determine their needs.

“It had been noticed there is a digital divide and there are people who are not
familiar with technology. We are always looking for ways to help them and to get them
more up to speed.

“They know memory loss and dementia are going to be a real problem in this county. So we are marketing this collection toward seniors and those with memory loss and dementia, but we are not preventing anyone from checking out a tablet if they want to,” she said.

Beyond seniors, there are groups of adults with disabilities who visit the library and will benefit from using the Launchpad tablets.

Aldellizzi spent time researching each game and purchased an assortment, some for ages 10 and up, some for teenagers and adults.

“All of the content on the Launchpad is appropriate for all ages, it’s just the level of difficulty of the games that is different,” she explained. “There are hidden word games, hidden object games, color games, crossword puzzles and things like that.”

Patrons who want to check out a Launchpad tablet must have a library card and will be asked to fill out a lending agreement.

Laura Beth Davis, Senior Services librarian, said, “The best part is that the Launchpad is so easy to use because it doesn’t need wi-fi. It is very simple to use, even for those who are tech-averse. And it has the potential for inter-generational interaction. It will enrich anybody’s life that it touches.”

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