Bringing magic moments to people living with dementia
Dementia How design and neurological research are being combined to create 'magic table' games that break through passivity and bring moments of happiness to people living with dementia.
As a child John Ramsay knew the heartbreak of dementia. “My dad developed early onset dementia aged 52, when I was 12. I helped care for him. It was painful but I buried the experience,” says John.
"My dad developed early onset dementia aged 52, when I was 12."
Later, as a corporate lawyer, John visited Holland and discovered the Tovertafel (magic table) device developed by his friend Hester Le Riche, a Dutch woman with a PhD in Industrial Design Engineering. It aims to stimulate physical and cognitive activity and social interaction in people with dementia, and break through the passivity that dementia can bring.
“When I saw people sitting around a table using their hands, eyes and minds to play with moving, interactive light images I thought it would have been wonderful to have this kind of interaction with dad.”
John gave up his well-paid job in The City to found a company bringing the device to the UK, where it is now used in around 100 care homes.
Hester, the games' designer, studied the neuropsychology of play experiences and the neuropathology of Alzheimer's disease, which follows a standard path. “I designed games for people with mid-to-late stage dementia”, when patients are capable of appreciating above all sensory stimulation, relaxation and reminiscence. This means no one finds the games frustrating or disappointing, and they deliver a positive experience each time.”
In the Leaves game, for instance, a gust of wind blows projections of leaves on to a table and players brush them off, using their hands and eyes and evoking memories of walking on the garden path.
Studies have shown that the games produce positive results in the areas of emotion, social interaction and physical activity and Tovertafel is shortlisted for the National Dementia Care Awards as an Outstanding Dementia Care Product.
"Other games have been developed to suit adults with learning disabilities and children with autism."
Other games have been developed to suit adults with learning disabilities and children with autism, and John wants to encourage young people to go into care settings and play the games with residents.
Hester says: “We want to expand their use, and I want to design a similar solution for lesser developed countries, to bring more moments of happiness to care home residents.”