Lights, sound, action: Aged care residents using cutting-edge technology to reconnect

Jamestown aged care residents living with dementia are being given an opportunity to reconnect with memories through an interactive projector, which uses light, colour and music to stimulate physical, social, and cognitive activity.

The introduction of a Tovertafel machine to Helping Hand’s Belalie Lodge will enable patients to respond to active cues through play, stimulating movement and connecting them to others and their environment.

Interactive games allow people to virtually feed birds, turn spots into fireworks and pop bubbles among other activities, and more importantly, spark conversations.

The Tovertafel, which originated in the Netherlands, has been provided to the Jamestown aged care facility thanks to the tireless efforts of the Belalie Lodge Auxiliary which helped fund the $15,000 machine.

Helping Hand CEO Chris Stewart said it was an outstanding achievement by the auxiliary, and would benefit many local elderly residents.

“There are 250 people every day in Australia diagnosed with dementia and that’s quite a confronting statistic, so introducing technologies like these into some of our aged care homes across South Australia we think is an incredibly important part of enriching those people living with dementia, their quality of life and living out their best years,” he said.

“On behalf of the whole organisation, Helping Hand is incredibly grateful for the great work the Jamestown Auxiliary does for this local community.

“For the Jamestown Auxiliary to donate this amount of money to allow us to purchase one of these units in a regional aged care home is a fantastic effort and we are very grateful.”

Helping Hand Belalie Lodge Auxiliary chairperson Rob Hammat said to see Belalie Lodge residents using the Tovertafel technology made the work of the auxiliary volunteers all the more worthwhile.

“When I came in this morning I saw these ladies at the table. They looked very happy and I thought – well – that was money well spent,” he said.

“Anything they need – we come up with the money and buy it for them. We raise money for the residents so they can get some enjoyment.

“I’d never heard of (Tovertafel) before and I went on the internet and saw how they work, and I saw residents playing with it and I thought ‘that would be a great thing, particularly for people with dementia’. We are all for it – the committee was all for it and we are very pleased we were able to put money towards it.”

Auxiliary secretary Maureen Growden agreed.

“It was wonderful to see the residents interacting and I can see it was doing a lot of good,” she said.

“It’s very rewarding to see where our money goes.”

The introduction of the machine at Jamestown follows its successful interaction at Helping Hand Ingle Farm, and as a result is now expected to be also rolled out at Helping Hand’s aged care facilities at North Adelaide, Mawson Lakes, Parafield Gardens, Clare, Port Pirie, Golden Grove and Lightsview.

According to Dementia Australia, there were an estimated 459,000 Australians living with dementia in 2020.

Unless there is a medical breakthrough, 590,000 are expected to develop dementia by 2028, rising to 1.08 million in 2056.

After a tough year of restricted visitation in 2020, Helping Hand executive manager of residential care Jenny Hall said the Tovertafel machine was one example of innovation bringing joy to residents in memory support services.

“To see the residents’ faces light up and to see them actively interact with the intuitive light projections and with others around them, is a really positive change,” she said.

“Our families are noticing a difference with their parents when they use the Tovertafel, and they become more social, it makes them happier and they love being involved in an activity which stimulates cognitive ability.”