Lighting the way
- Posted by admin
- On 17th March 2017
A new innovation called Tovertafel, designed to promote physical activity, mental stimulation and social interaction in those with dementia, is already positively impacting lives
Imagine a situation in which people with mid- to late-stage dementia are engaged in playing games: being mentally stimulated; interacting happily with others; smiling and laughing. It is a situation that would be a dream come true for many family members of those with dementia, yet now it has become a reality, thanks to the invention of Active Cues’ Tovertafel (or ‘Magic Table’).
This new game, designed for those with mid- to late-stage dementia, motivates people to participate in play, providing mental stimulation, physical activity and social interaction. The brainchild of PhD researcher Hester Le Riche, who developed the Tovertafel in close collaboration with people with dementia, the innovation comprises a box suspended from the ceiling that contains a high-quality projector, infrared sensors, a speaker, processor, memory card and Wi-Fi antenna. This set-up results in light games that can be projected onto any table surface, which are sensitive to hand and arm movements. Games include sweeping leaves across the table surface, or batting a beach ball back and forth.
Developed in the Netherlands, Tovertafel has now hit the UK with the help of the product’s UK representative, John Ramsay. John has first-hand experience of the devastating effects of dementia: his father was diagnosed with early onset dementia when John was just 12 years old. Driven by a desire to make a positive impact in the world of dementia care, and conscious that the most challenging part of his father’s condition for him was sitting in the care home with no way to connect, John quit his role in the city as a corporate lawyer in order to promote Tovertafel.
‘I went to see Hester and we discussed the product she had developed,’ John says. ‘Then I went to Holland to see it in action and it’s just so intuitive. I’ve done countless demos now and I’ve yet to see a care-home resident who doesn’t interact.’
It’s clear that, for John, his motivation comes from seeing the happiness of the residents as soon as he switches the game on, and the way in which it helps family members interact with the person with dementia. That everyone can play together is fundamental to this. ‘You see their eyes light up and they giggle, and this happens every single time,’ he reveals.
Tovertafel provides welcome relief for those with dementia, but the happiness the game provides obviously has other positive side effects.
‘It is proven that the more active and the more engaged a person is, the slower their decline,’ says John. ‘If people are more engaged, they’re happier. They’re not going to be depressed. There is scientific evidence to show that people are happier when using Tovertafel.’
Indeed, initial studies into the effects of Tovertafel have been highly promising: results show a significant increase in physical activity, as well as an increase in positive emotions and social activity.
John explains that Tovertafel is perfect to help family members interact with the person with dementia, but it is also ideal as a distraction for when the person gets agitated or upset. And of course, the novelty of the game never wears off.
‘For a person with late-stage dementia, every day is a new day, so their engagement level with the game is the same each day.’
Tovertafel is not an ‘off-the-shelf’ product: care homes that invest in the innovation will receive a detailed demonstration of the product to illustrate just how beneficial it is for residents, as well as complete installation, full training and an explanation of the science behind the games.
Sales of Tovertafel are going well, although John remarks the measure of success is not based on how many products are sold, but on how many ‘moments of happiness’ they can provide each day. ‘We do this by asking for continual feedback from our care homes,’ he explains. ‘Just before Christmas, we hit 10,000 moments of happiness each day. The ambition is to hit 10,000,000.’