The ‘magic tables’ helping people with dementia get some ‘real enjoyment’

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The ‘magic tables’ helping people with dementia get some ‘real enjoyment’
The ‘magic tables’ helping people with dementia get some ‘real enjoyment’

A group of aged care residents move their hands across the surface of a table as they gather in the facility’s recreation room.

In front of them are fluorescent orange fish that move when a hand touches them. 

It’s all part of a magic table or tovertafel, a new addition to the list of activities at Mercy Place Aged Care in Cairns. 

Aged care residents sit around a table that has flouro lights on it

John Mark watches his wife Bernice use the “magic table”. (ABC Far North: Alexandra Treloar)

Mercy Health Residential Aged Care has eight homes that are using the magic table which is becoming a popular tool for aged care facilities across the country. 

Created in Holland, the tovertafel is designed to encourage social interaction and mental stimulation with residents who have mobility constraints and those who are socially withdrawn. 

Hands on a table surface that has bright lights on it.

Aged care residents use a tovertafel.(ABC Far North: Alexandra Treloar)

The technology has made a big difference to the daily routine of Bernice Mark, who has dementia. 

“She takes an interest in it, which is quite unusual,” Mrs Mark’s husband, John Mark, said. 

“She just generally sits with her eyes shut, but she is getting some real enjoyment out of it.” 

A man and a woman sit next to each other in front of a table.

John and Bernice Mark spend time together playing games on the “magic table”. (ABC Far North: Alexandra Treloar)

The technology is a small, mounted box which projects images onto the table, with infrared motion sensors enabling people to use their hands to play with the projected light images.

Mercy Place lifestyle coordinator Wyanita Christensen said she had seen seen a remarkable difference in clients who used the magic table. 

“It’s very intuitive, you don’t need any skills or language barriers,” Ms Christensen said.  

Bright lights make a colourful pattern on a table.

The tables help people living with dementia to engage in an activity.(ABC Far North: Alexandra Treloar)

“This has the ability to calm or stimulate people.

“We’ve only had it for three weeks but we’ve had a really good response [from the residents] so far.”

A woman reaches out to touch coloured lights on a table

Mercy Place has put the tables in several residental aged care facilities.(ABC Far North: Alexandra Treloar)

University of Queensland reseacher and occupational therapist, Jacki Little, said it was great to have options to try lots of different things with people living with dementia.

“It is important that we shouldn’t exclude people living with dementia from using technology,” she said.

But she said there was no one-size-fits-all approach when it came to activities for people living with dementia.

“The only cautionary tale I’d have with projected images is to make sure that it is not causing confusion or distress,” she said. 

“For some people it could be adding to the feeling that they don’t trust their environment, so when technology like this is being used, it is important that there are people who can support the interactions and ask the participants how they are finding it.”

Worker, this is your PCODE for proof: pw-323930f258d90104c25ae076519117fcca82c8aed29dd176d80e7e0954716d82
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