A Magical Gift for Those with Dementia

A Magical Gift for Those with Dementia

Painting, gardening, tapping to the beat of the music, decorating a cake—all activities our memory care residents at Arbor Place enjoyed in their younger days. Today, thanks to a new therapeutic game system, they can interact with those familiar experiences in a safe environment that encourages physical, social and cognitive engagement.

The Tovertafel is an innovative game console designed for use in dementia care settings and was installed in Arbor Place this past November. Meth-Wick is one of the first senior living communities in Iowa to implement the device.

Meaning “magic table” in Dutch, the Tovertafel is a box mounted on the ceiling that holds a projector, hardware, and infrared sensors. It projects colorful animations onto a table below, while the sensors pick up even the slightest hand movements. This combination allows users with cognitive challenges to interact with the moving graphics—from cracking an egg to making a cake or growing a plant in the garden, just by touching the images on the table.

The games are designed to entertain, but the primary goal of the system is therapeutic. Developed in 2015 in Holland by a medical technology company, studies have shown that the interactive console stimulates the brain, reduces sadness and apathy, promotes social interaction, and increases dexterity and mobility.

Eryn Cronbaugh, Meth-Wick’s Director of Wellness and Recreation, says the Tovertafel is used in many different capacities.

“We use it in a group setting as well as in a 1:1 program if a particular resident is anxious or needs engagement,” said Cronbaugh.  “We also have family members who use it when they visit their loved one. It’s a great tool for family members. Sometimes, it can be difficult to have a conversation with a loved one who has dementia. This gives the families another option for spending quality time together.”



The console is connected to a website, so games are automatically updated by the manufacturer to offer residents new challenges. Each game also has different levels to make it enjoyable for a range of abilities.

“I think the most exciting thing about it is the ability for people to experience high levels of success with the games,” says Cronbaugh. “It can be frustrating for a person with dementia to learn something new or remember rules to a game or complete multiple tasks. The Tovertafel is set up for residents to be successful, even while playing the same game with someone who has different abilities.”

Cronbaugh says the goal is to add Tovertafel units to more Meth-Wick buildings for residents to enjoy.

“We have applied and are hoping for grant funding to add a Tovertafel to the Nesetril Neighborhood at The Woodlands,” said Cronbaugh. “There are so many benefits for our residents and our caregivers, we would love to eventually have one in all three neighborhoods at The Woodlands as well.”