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New game a hit for elders at hospital 

The gaming device is specifically designed for use in hospitals among those with conditions like dementia. Miriam Lafontaine The Eastern Door

It’s 10 a.m. on Tuesday in the activity room at the Kateri Memorial Hospital Centre (KMHC), and nine residents are crowded around a table under a projector hinged to the ceiling. Images of falling leaves projected onto it fly away with the push of a hand. For many today, it’s their first time ever using the interactive game console. With the switch of a remote, the image soon changes to floating bubbles that players can pop. 

“There’s 35 different games they can play,” explained Lisa Skye, an activity coordinator at the hospital.  

The device – the Tovertafel – has been a major hit with the residents ever since it was introduced three weeks ago, she said. It’s specifically designed to be used among those with cognitive challenges such as dementia or Alzheimer’s, but really any patient can use it, Skye said, adding it provides an outlet for social interaction.  

“It’s physically stimulating, it’s mentally stimulating, and the music is relaxing,” she said.  “I think we’re going to be using this every day with different people.”  

Her colleague Kelly Stacey said it’s encouraging residents that are often silent and unresponsive to speak up and use their motor skills. 

 “They all engage on it. They won’t just sit here and do nothing,” she said. “They’re all amazed by it.” 

The new initiative is thanks to community member Mary Goodleaf, who bought and donated the device to the hospital back in December. It came in at a cost of over $17,000. Money that she won earlier in the fall at the Purple Ribbon Walk, held to fundraise for cancer patients, helped pay for it, she said.  

“I won $12,000 and I wanted to donate it back to the hospital somehow, toward something that would benefit the community,” Goodleaf said.  

She said the device came onto her radar after she started researching about gaming technology geared toward elderly people – something her father had expressed interest in. He isn’t a resident at the hospital, she said, but he does have friends there he often goes and visits. She said she hopes to see the children and grandchildren of residents there too in the room engaging with it. 

“It’s an amazing, amazing product,” Goodleaf said. “It sparks integration. It sparks conversation.” 

While many of the games are just meant to be fun, some are more geared toward improving particular health conditions. One showing words with missing letters encourages players to select the correct letter to complete the word, aiding in memory. Others aim to promote relaxation, Goodleaf said. 

“There’s even a game that’s specific to sundowning,” she said. “If they’re having trouble sleeping and calming down, they can sit there. It has very calming and soothing sounds and images that they can sit and look at.” 

She said she also has her eyes on donating the same kind of device to the Turtle Bay Elders’ Lodge in town.  

Community member Binnie Barnes is grateful to be able to see her mother Loretta get to use it, saying it helps her cope with her Alzheimer’s diagnosis.  

“I want to thank Mary Goodleaf for her contribution to the KMHC,” she said right after bringing her mother to the activity room on Tuesday morning. “My mom really loves it. It’s much appreciated.” 

miriam@easterndoor.com 

This article was originally published in print on March 22 in issue 33.12 of The Eastern Door.

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Miriam Lafontaine is a reporter with the Eastern Door. Her work has appeared in Le Devoir, CBC Montreal, CBC New Brunswick as well as the Toronto Star.

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Miriam Lafontaine is a reporter with the Eastern Door. Her work has appeared in Le Devoir, CBC Montreal, CBC New Brunswick as well as the Toronto Star.