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Tovertafel: Shedding light on ‘magical’ forms of engagement

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Shedding light on magical forms of engagement

As the arts within dementia become increasingly explored, so do more unique forms of creative activity. Most of us are at least somewhat familiar with ‘well-known’ activities such as group singing, arts and crafts, and reading groups etc. Therefore it can be refreshingly inspiring to be offered the opportunity to take part in something new, reminding us that interventions can come in all sorts of inventive ways.

Last week Created Out of Mind, based at The Wellcome Hub in London, welcomed a rather playful visit from Tovertafel. Translating from Dutch to ‘Magic table’, Tovertafel uses infrared technology to allow individuals to interact with light projection. What this does is create games for people with moderate to severe dementia by shining the projector onto a table or surface. 

Tovertafel was developed by PhD student Hester Le Riche at the Delft University of Technology and VU University of Amsterdam. The aim of this technology is to promote relaxation, reminiscence, sensation, and prolonged periods of engagement. It is currently being used in residential care homes as opposed to family homes, and it hopes to reduce the passivity that some care home residents may experience. By having a variety of different games available, appropriate levels of stimulus can be offered to residents, therefore encouraging engagement from everybody.

I decided to reflect upon my own experience of engagement with the game, and found that this equipment was capable of evoking many different feelings. There was something beautifully therapeutic in being able to run my hand through simulated water, watch fishes dance up my arm; and with the addition of gentle sound it offered a fully immersive experience. Then there was the socialness of swiping a beach ball to one another, and the fun curiosity of rummaging through leaves. Even something as straightforward as resting my hand on the table waiting for a butterfly to land on it offered a peaceful tranquillity.

Tovertafel wonderfully captures what it means to engage with your surroundings, in this case virtual objects and scenarios.  There is the risk of games like these sounding childish to some, but one key element to developing engaging activities in dementia is being open-minded. Innovative intervention designs such as this one demonstrate the potential for technology within dementia care, showing how something as simple as a light and a surface can create hours of meaningful activity.

Created Out of Mind will continue to explore different styles of intervention throughout this two year project on the arts and dementia, and hopes to find ways of capturing ‘in the moment’ experiences during these forms of engagement.

You can watch Tovertafel in use at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mm8Vh-XXxzE or visit their website for more information at http://activecues.com/en/


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