13 November 2020

'Magic' tables bring joy to residents living with dementia

Magic table

Residents at two Octavia extra care schemes are enjoying hours of active fun during lockdown through interactive games designed to enrich the lives of people with dementia.

The technology, which can be played on any flat surface, uses images, lights and sound to engage people with a range of interactive games including gardening, splashing in rock pools and popping bubbles. The magic table is helping to increase physical activity, social engagement and mental stimulation of residents – and provide hours of fun during lockdown at the same time.   

Designed with older people in mind, the technology uses a light projector that allows any tabletop, ceiling or floor to host the activities which can be played with hand movements. It also uses therapeutic sounds, which derive from nature, and have been shown to promote feelings of calm for people with dementia.

Recent statistics from The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention show that 90% of people living in care homes with dementia have experienced apathy or dissociation.[1] Designed to create moments of happiness through play, the magic table aims to provide a solution to this problem by sparking conversations and memories. From table football and ice hockey, to a name game that generates well-known sayings, its wide range of activities are scientifically proven to engage minds and stimulate reminiscence.

While the collaborative games motivate a sense of team spirit, they are also promoting increased levels of independence among residents at Octavia’s Leonora House and James Hill House extra care schemes. Its portable consul allows people of all cognitive and mobility levels to play independently or in a group – with less mobile residents engaging from the comfort of their own homes (it can even be projected on ceilings for people in bed) and more active residents forming a social bubble, so they can use it together without staff supervision. 

Jane, a resident at Octavia’s Leonora House, said: “I’ve enjoyed using the magic table with the other residents. It gives us a chance to have a good talk and laugh with one another. There is a nice variety of options too. Some games are calming and relaxing, others require you to think carefully, and then there is table football which is competitive and fun.”

Neil McCarthy, Assistant Director of Care and Support at Octavia said: “The magic tables have made a big difference to our residents’ cognitive and mobility skills and quality of life. As well as providing positive shared experiences, with users now more motivated to interact with other residents and care staff alike, they are also bringing comfort to people in the later stages of dementia. For residents who are bed-bound, we can project flowing water onto their bedsheets – an activity that many are finding soothing and relaxing. We are very grateful to the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC) and Westminster Council for providing the funding for these life-changing devices.

Melvyn Caplan, Councillor for Little Venice said: “Little Venice ward Councillors are delighted to support this important project by paying for the Social-Ability Happiness Programme. This 2-year project facilitates the use of the magic table, providing training and group sessions for the residents as well as community engagement once the pandemic restrictions have been lifted.”

As an award-winning care provider with highly trained staff who specialise in caring and supporting people with dementia, Octavia’s care team is regularly trained on the latest best practices in how to increase quality of life for individuals with dementia. In recent years this has included training through an ‘immersive tour’, which recreates the experience of what it is like to have dementia.

Carers at all seven of Octavia’s extra care schemes have been providing practical and emotional support to all residents since the start of the pandemic. As well as helping them keep in touch with friends and family through telephone and video calls, they have also been paying special attention to supporting their wellbeing, through socially distanced activities including arts and crafts, zoom yoga and exercise bike sessions.

As seen in Housing Digital


[1] https://www.internationalcaregiversassociation.com/blog/222-reducing-apathy-in-dementia.html