In the first of a new series of blog posts focusing on how the AcTo Dementia website is being used in the real world, Angie Weatherhead tell us about the Alice Cross Centre Memory Café in Devon.
The Alice Cross Centre in Teignmouth, Devon is a place where local older people can have lunch, socialise and take part in lots of activities. Volunteering in Health held a successful monthly Memory Café at the Alice Cross Centre for people with dementia. In June 2017 they decided to make the Memory Café a weekly event, every Thursday morning. This change meant more activities had to be planned for the café.
I was asked to run a ‘play with tablets’ session at the group once a month. With the help of grants from the Clare Milne Trust and the Incredible Fund, the centre bought 3 iPads and 1 Lenovo tablet. From the outset we all agreed we wanted the session to be fun and also not scary as we knew many of those attending might never have touched a tablet computer before.
The AcTo Dementia site was invaluable as it gave us much needed information on which apps might work for the Memory Café based on real evidence and testing. It meant we had confidence before we started that the sessions might have a good chance of working. We knew which apps we could use the free version of and those it would be better if we upgraded to a paid for one. There was also a variety that could be played as just an individual or with two people. We added about 10 apps to each tablet. At the first session a lot of the group did not want to engage but kept looking at what was going on.
We are now six months on and the iPads are almost expected by the group when I arrive. When I set up, regular attendees ask for their favourite app like Jigty and I load new jigsaws on before the session on their favourite topic. Others play Battleships or Draughts or Dominoes together. For those who don’t remember previous sessions or are new to the group, they have confidence from seeing others have a go and there is a positive atmosphere. Firm favourites are the Wordsearches, Crosswords, Jigsaws and Hangman. No-one is forced to try and everyone stops when they want. The use of the apps has generated conversations, for example when an American spelt word comes up or a word nobody knows the meaning of, we google it together! This often leads to other conversations. We try and have a theme each session and fit the apps around that. Volunteers to the session also help the group members and over the months some people's confidence on the iPads has grown as well.
We are now at the stage of buying two more iPads as the four tablets (and one borrowed) are not enough for the group size of 14! It has been a success and we are often asked by visiting carers which apps we use and we tell them of AcTo.
Thanks for this great project - it has given the sessions so many positive outcomes.
Angie Weatherhead, Freelance Information Professional