Using technology for entertainment
Technology brings the world of entertainment into someone’s life, offering a wealth of opportunities for the person with dementia to learn, laugh and enjoy.
These can encourage people to move, focus and interact in ways that are not always easy to provide in care settings.
Games on touchscreen tablets
Games on a tablet are a good way to introduce and encourage people to the different finger movements on a touchscreen tablet. You can begin by using simple games on tablets and adapt accordingly. Games like iFishPond, where you can touch the screen and make the water splash and you can go fishing as well, or Raindrops which plays musical notes or Fireworks that explode in colour. Things like this help introduce people to the touchscreen approach. You do not have to look for games that are specifically to do with memory or dementia. It can be much better to find out what people’s interests are and find a game that is appropriate to their capabilities.
Case study: Using an iPad
A gentleman aged 90 was visited by his six-year-old great grandson who showed him how to use an iPad. They began by using the iFishPond app and then moved on to playing with the Talking Tom Cat app (a cat that blows raspberries!) It caused much laughter and enjoyment; others enjoyed them laughing together.
Puzzles, board games, sensory games
Games can be a good way to introduce computers, as well as being an entertainment in themselves. They can be more intuitive if done on a tablet, but a desktop computer with mouse and keyboard can work too – it will depend on the individual and their capabilities. Search for websites that offer free versions of ‘traditional’ games such as:
- Jigsaws (e.g. Jigzone.com)
- Sudoku (e.g. the Alzheimer’s Society of Canada post a new Sudoku on their website every day)
- Crosswords (e.g. the Crossword Network)
There are also digital games which appeal to the senses and can engage with people with limited cognitive capacity. Many computers come preloaded with games. You can search online using a search engine such as Google for games related to a person’s interests. Many games are free to access or download (though they may contain advertising) and most paid-for ones are low cost.
When downloading games, be aware of internet security issues. Get Safe Online provides useful advice.
Hints and tips for games activities
- Try to avoid using websites that ask you to register personal details such as email addresses unless you trust them – your address might be passed on to third parties and then you may receive loads of unwanted emails.
- Read reviews of mainstream apps that work well for people with dementia at Memory apps for dementia.
- In general, don’t choose activities where there is a long delay between the user doing something and the outcome, or where the rules are complex.
Increase physical activity
Interactive computer games can sometimes improve hand–eye coordination. Games such as Wii tennis may appeal to some in day centres and sheltered housing. Sensory games can engage people whose condition means that other forms of communication are not possible.
Technology can support physical as well as mental exercise. Games consoles (such as the Nintendo Wii or the Xbox Kinect) are attached to TVs (large screens are best). Individuals or groups can engage in all kinds of sports and physical recreation by interacting with the screen. These kinds of games can encourage people to move, focus and interact in ways that are not always easy to provide in care settings.
Hints and tips for interactive games consoles
- Consider first those people with limited mobility or who are physically restricted with movement; think about health and safety issues.
- If you are using competitive games, make sure you do not set people up to be beaten all the time!
- Sometimes games with a stationary object (e.g. golf) are easier for people with dementia than games with a constantly moving object (e.g. tennis).
- Games that offer the option to adjust the skill level are usually easier to introduce.
- Magic Table or Tovertafel is an interactive light animation that reacts to hand and arm movements and stimulates physical, mental and social activity in people with later stage dementia.
Radio can entertain, engage, and help reduce the feeling of isolation. It can do this for any of us but for the person with dementia, it can provide a precious link to a world of music, news and stories. Technology may need to be adapted to enable them to access this valuable resource.
Some helpful ideas:
One button radio
Simple radio, which once set up, plays a set station, at a set volume, providing the user with a simple on-off one button operation.
Devices exist to make accessing internet radio stations much easier. Although not designed specifically for people with dementia, they can be useful to people with mild to moderate forms of the condition.
Find out more: BWBF Sonata Plus+ Internet radio
Voice controlled smart speaker:
Amazon Echo, via its buzzword ‘Alexa’, provides access to music streaming services including Amazon Music Unlimited and Spotify and internet radio stations, via simple voice, no touch, commands.
Smart home smart speaker:
This speaker can be configured to automatically start/stop playing an internet radio station, or audio stream, based on events, like a certain time of day, or someone’s location, or even the room temperature. It can also announce pre-set remind messages.
Find out more: Musaic Smart Hifi
TV and films online
Showing films using a projector
You can use a projector screen to show old movies that residents are interested in. Popcorn can be given out when you have a chat after the movie. It’s a good group experience and it stimulates people to talk and share ideas.
You can schedule broadcast radio and television programmes around an individual’s preferences or for a group session. All the major broadcasters now have a version of the BBC’s online iPlayer which lets you watch TV programmes or listen to radio shows online at a time that suits. Most programmes are available for some time after they are broadcast. Newer TVs may connect directly to online players.
There are also websites offering free movies. Here are a few examples:
- RemArc, or Reminiscence Archive, is designed to help trigger memories in people with dementia using BBC Archive material as stimulation.
- Classic Cinema Online
- Open culture free movies
- Talk Talk movies make a small charge
Search for these kinds of services in advance of any planned activity; the internet can turn up things you don’t expect!
Licences for showing films
If you are showing films in a communal area and the films are covered by copyright (which most are), you will probably need a Public Video Screening Licence. Filmbank have further information on these licences, including ones specifically for care homes.
Case study: Using YouTube
A resident who was often disengaged became animated when he was shown YouTube clips of vintage cars. Restoring vintage cars had been his hobby and passion. When his wife saw his reaction, she was amazed, as she hadn’t seen him so engaged in a long time. She decided to buy a tablet computer for the home.
Disclaimer: The products mentioned are to provide ideas for consideration only, none are endorsed by SCIE.