The Alzheimer’s Show: four fascinating things
Published on 12 June 2018 04:54 PM
On Friday 8 and Saturday 9 June, London’s Olympia played host to The Alzheimer’s Show 2018.
More than 3,000 people were in attendance, both those affected by dementia, and professionals looking for practical advice, information, products and services.
The Age UK stand provided information and advice guides, research/policy papers and details about local services. Age UK London was present at the show on the Friday, while Age UK Camden was represented on Saturday, with their Dementia Wellbeing Lead Tracey McDermott on hand to provide specific dementia advice.
With so much there to see, hear and experience, here’s a quick rundown of a few of the many interesting things that were there.
1. There were some truly amazing people in attendance
Among them was Peter Berry, who described himself during the variety of talks and panels he took part in across the two days as, ‘Living with Alzheimer’s on a very long and colourful journey’. Peter is very active on social media and posts a weekly YouTube video in which he discusses living with the disease.
He’s also an avid cyclist, telling the audience during a Q&A panel on the Saturday that getting on his bike not only helped with his depression in the early days after his diagnosis, but provided him with the ability to become what he was, not what he is now. ‘I have this vision that I leave my dementia on the sofa at home, twiddling its thumbs and waiting for me to come back; it’s no longer in control – I’m in control,’ explained Peter. ‘I know that’s not the reality, but that positive thought works.’
‘I think everybody should have the opportunity, if they want to, to leave their own dementia at home,’ he continued. ‘It works for the carer as well. While I’m out cycling with whoever it is, or sometimes on my own, it gives my wife a break as well.’
‘I’m trying to make it so that I’m going to be here in 10 years’ time, talking to you,’ he concluded. What an inspiration!
2. You could go back to the Queen’s Coronation
People re-experiencing their past is a powerful idea, and one that had multiple applications at the show. When, for example, Peter was asked what he’d do differently if he could go through his diagnosis again, he suggested he’d tell more people about it, which he hadn’t because he was embarrassed. ‘Get it out in the open,’ Peter encouraged. ‘It’s not your fault.’
But what of those whose conditions are more advanced? What if you could actually fully immerse yourself in days gone by? What personal recollections would that prompt? These were questions posed by The Wayback, a series of virtual reality films.
‘This is a personal project for all of us,’ says co-founder Dan Cole. ‘We’ve all had family members affected by Alzheimer’s and dementia, and our experiences told us that conversations became difficult to come by as the disease took hold, so you’d try all sorts of things to open up that communication. Taking my dad back to where he grew up proved very helpful with him. Being surrounded by that environment opened up all sorts of stories from his past. We thought it would be great to take people back to a personal moment in time, and see how that would help.’
The series of films feature painstakingly recreated environments, such as a local community enjoying the Queen’s Coronation on 2 June 1953, complete with accurate period clothing, dialogue and music (all based on insight gathered from interviews with people who were there). The films are accessible via a free app and downloaded onto a smartphone, which is then placed into a Google cardbox viewer that’s held up to the eyes to provide a 360 degree experience – so wherever you look, whether down at the pavement or up at the sky, you’re seemingly in the past. ‘There was an obsession with the level of detail,’ says Dan, who reveals they’re looking into creating more films, including one around England’s World Cup winning year of 1966.
3. Communication was made playful
Football is a format game to countless people, but there are others. Call-to-mind, for example, encourages communication in people living with dementia through an engaging, board game style.
‘It took a long time to develop the game,’ says Laura Templeton, whose sister, an occupational therapist working with dementia patients, came up with the concept after determining the need for a “person-centred” but unintimidating activity. ‘She realised that patients could often feel threatened if you asked them questions, as it seemed like it was a test that they might fail. As a family we’d all played games, so thought a game that asked questions would be a kinder and more fun way to get information about someone.’
Having previously worked on board games as teaching aids, Laura, a designer, brought the visual components to life, working with UCL and care homes to trial it. The game poses questions to players about themselves under headings such as “Growing up”, “Making + Mending” and “Clothes”. As well as encouraging memory retrieval and stimulating conversations among those playing, the findings can be incorporated into their individual care plans.
4. There was a whole new use for a table
The show featured a wide variety of tools for helping those with Alzheimer’s and dementia. Some, as we’ve already seen, were based on recognisable, lo-fi formats; while others, like the Tovertafel, harness technology.
Tovertafel, which means “Magic Table” in Dutch, is a high-quality projector combined with infrared sensors, speaker and a processor, to project interactive games onto a table. The first aim of these games is to stimulate physical and cognitive activity among those with mid-to-late stage dementia. ‘The further people are in the journey with dementia, the more likely they are to interact with the Magic Table,’ says Medhi Bedioui, one of the two directors of Shift 8, the company that’s brought Tovertafel to the UK. Its other aim, Medhi says, is to create what they call ‘Moments of happiness’ between loved ones.