CHITTENDEN COUNTY — Families and individuals who have loved ones with different forms of dementia often struggle with staying connected or finding the right way to engage. (Ho-dee-ay) wants to change that.

The card game company started by Emily Rinkema of Westford and Deb Emerson of Burlington  is meant to make active engagement easier and more dignified. Both Rinkema and Emerson have spent years alongside their loved ones living with different forms of dementia. 

One of the frustrations they faced was finding games to play with their loved ones that were made with an adult in mind, not a child.

Emerson recently read a memoir written by a woman while she was in the early stages of Alzheimer’s, and its message about mental decline stuck with her. 

“She was talking about how it’s really hard to suddenly feel like ‘at some point I’m not going to be treated like an adult, I’m going to be treated like a child.’ To see that coming and how difficult that is, that’s why we want to keep this activity a little bit more dignified,” Emerson said.

Rinkema and Emerson described giant flashcard-like cards or smaller cards and games with childish themes such as puppies, kittens or baby farm animals.

“For some people, that will work. My grandmother had Alzheimer's and she loved anything, puppy or kitten. But my father would see right through that. The second anything like that was put in front of him that would just shut him off for a long time,” Rinkema said.

With their personal experiences in mind, Rinkema and Emerson set out to design cards that were easy to use and visually interesting. They wanted clean and high quality photographs that capture themes that interest older generations such as birds or cars.

Once they had a design they liked, they focused on the second most important aspect to them: having no rules.

The cards are meant to serve as a way to connect with a loved one living with different forms of dementia and are not tools for preserving memory. Other than that, there is no right way to use them.

Both Rinkema and Emerson played cards with their fathers and learned how the rules cannot be hard set, they need to change and evolve with each new day and each new moment.

Gin Rummy can be traditional Gin Rummy. It can also be separating the red and black cards or seeing how far the cards can be thrown. 

“One day the rules are going to work, and one day they’re not, and then the next day they may work again,” Rinkema said.

The bird cards currently available on the (Ho-dee-ay) website include a set of 23 pairs of unique bird photos captured by Essex photographer Peter Riley and a small “suggestions” sheet for what to do with the cards.

The business name was inspired by the Latin word “Hodie” and by the sauna Rinkema and Emerson were brainstorming in during their company retreat. The women decided to use a phonetic pronunciation of the Latin word, which translates to “this day,” so their business wasn’t confused with the word hoodie.

“This day…Is what (Ho-dee-ay) is all about: enjoying the time we have together at this moment,” the company’s website states.

Looking forward, Rinkema and Emerson want their next set to follow a car theme and are currently working with a new photographer from England.

Finding another local photographer who met all the criteria was a struggle, but the new artist they’ve connected with has also lost a family member to dementia.

“Everyone has a connection to someone unfortunately, there’s unfortunately a never ending audience for the product which is sad. Everybody ends up saying ‘Oh my grandmother, my mother, my sister, my brother are suffering from living with dementia,’” Rinkema said.

Written By

Staff Writer

Kate Vanni | she/her/hers | Reporter | Kate covers Town of Essex and City of Essex Junction municipal meetings, schools and local businesses through written and visual storytelling. Reach her at (802)-448-0253


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