We caught up with John Ramsey from Shift 8* who are the makers of Tovertafel, a series of games for people with moderate to severe dementia and adults with severe learning disabilities. The games consist of a series of interactive light animations which are projected on any table and which motivate the mind and inspire those living with dementia and/or learning disabilities to be active.
Can you tell us about Tovertafel?
The Tovertafel, which means ‘Magic Table’ in Dutch, is a series of award-winning light games aimed at those living with mid-to-late stage dementia. The pioneering technology is a small box which holds a projector, infrared sensors, a speaker and a processor, and works by projecting interactive light games onto a table. The box is mounted onto a ceiling in a communal area, encouraging engagement and interactivity from those playing the games. It stimulates a level of physical and social activity rarely seen in people living with dementia.
What does your role involve?
I’m CEO and Founder of Shift 8*, an enterprise which is committed to changing the world by introducing socially responsible and life changing products to the UK and Ireland. Our first product is the Tovertafel, which we brought to the UK from the Netherlands – where it was originally created.
As CEO and Founder, my role involves meeting lots of different people. I travel across the country meeting advocates, care homes, libraries, hospitals and others who want to learn more about dementia care and creating ‘moments of happiness’ for those on their journey. As a team, we are passionate to raise awareness and improve the lives of loved ones across the country as much as possible.
We launched our campaign From Seldom Heard to Seen & Heard in September. Why do you think it is important to consider people affected by dementia in seldom heard groups?
Dementia can be challenging, not only for those on their journey, but for their friends and family too. It can be an extremely confusing time for everyone involved, and also very isolating.
Often when it comes to dementia, people will search to correct someone who has been diagnosed, but really, we need to focus on what people can achieve, not what they can’t. The good news is that awareness surrounding dementia is increasing, but more has to be done to provide the best possible care for those on their journey, as well as their family and friends.
Can you tell us about how your career to date has led you to your current role?
Initially I worked as a corporate lawyer at a Magic Circle law firm for eight years. I loved my career there, but I felt that something was missing.
My father was diagnosed with early onset dementia when I was 12 years old, and he sadly passed away ten years later. Following this experience, I realised that I wanted to bring some good out of a highly difficult situation and wanted to do something close to my heart. I met a friend, Hester Le Riche, who was doing a PhD in cognitive science and was looking to create a game which would stimulate physical and social activity for those living with mid-to-late stage dementia: the Tovertafel. This was my eureka moment! Then Shift 8* was born to help share such socially responsible products in the UK.
What are you currently working on in regards to dementia?
The Tovertafel is our first product and we want to concentrate on its longevity and ensuring we support clients to use it in the right way. As part of this service, we’ve created the Tovertafel Buddy Scheme to help inspire the next generation to get involved in dementia care and potentially end up working in this field. A Tovertafel Buddy is a volunteer in the local area, usually aged between 17 and 23, who, having been trained by our team, visits the care centre where the Tovertafel has been installed and shows the staff, family members and residents how to get the best out of the technology.
Day to day, we are also heavily involved in the care community, visiting care homes and training the staff on how to best use the Tovertafel.
Currently, the Tovertafel has been installed in 250 care services in the UK, with 3,000 people experiencing ‘moments of happiness’ every day and nearly 50,000 across Europe. We’re on a mission to reach 10 million people a day, creating more ‘moment of happiness’ for all.
Tell us something interesting about yourself
I once worked as a volunteer representing inmates on death row in New Orleans.
For further details go to www.tovertafel.co.uk/