Two older adults using a Magic Table
Tover Magic Table in use by senior living residents (Courtesy of Tovertafel)

Table top gaming consoles — so-called magic tables — are taking off in memory care communities, providing an easy way to stimulate the brains of those with memory impairing diseases.

Wheelock Terrace Assisted Living in Hanover, NH, and Tulsa, OK-based Senior Star are using the consoles to draw residents out of their shells, promote eye-hand coordination, improve memory recall and range of motion, and encourage social interaction.

The systems are similar in that a ceiling-mounted console projects life-like virtual images onto a table. The systems engage social, physical and cognitive areas of the brain, using infrared sensors to detect movement and engagement from users. Both systems were designed specifically for use in cognitively impaired people, although they have potential use for other groups, including individuals on the autism spectrum.

The residents of Wheelock Terrace Assisted Living are using Tovertafel gaming consoles from the Netherlands.

Residents playing with Magic Table
Wheelock Terrace Assisted Living residents with the Tover Magic Table (Courtesy of Wheelock Terrace)

Dutch for “magic table,” the Tovertafel system is shared with other Wheelock Terrace communities, including Valley Terrace in White River Junction, VT, and Woodstock Terrace in Woodstock, VT. Plans are in the works, however, to secure a system for each community.

Wheelock Terrace Marketing / Admission Coordinator Pudge Eaton told McKnight’s Senior Living that she first saw a Tovertafel in action in 2018. Wheelock Terrace was the first community in New Hampshire, and one of only two in the New England region, to adopt the system last November.

Residents have at least 35 games to choose from — a list that continues to grow with each software update — and can simply use their hands to control the scene before them. Games also can be projected onto the floor, allowing residents to use their feet to kick virtual balls.

The system offers various levels of participation to coincide with the different stages of memory impairment residents are experiencing. 

“It’s amazing to see the change in a resident’s demeanor when they’re engaged with the Tovertafel,” Wheelock Terrace Life Enrichment Director Cindy Wiegand said. “I’ve seen memory care residents who are typically withdrawn or even nonverbal engage with the Tovertafel; they laugh, smile, make eye contact and get excited when they’re able to reach out and touch a goldfish or flower petal.

“A smile is worth a thousand words in their case.”

The system comes with a two-year warranty, followed by a yearly maintenance software upgrade. Cindy said she’s been providing information on the system to other senior living communities that heard about the device and contacted her.

Woman plays with virtual tabletop game
Senior Star Lucynt Magic Table (Courtesy of Senior Star)

Senior Star similarly adopted the use of a magic table from Colorado-based Lucynt in its memory care communities.

The Lucynt Magic Table features more than 100 electronic games on a tabletop, with ever-changing images and accompanying sounds. The interactive system is available to residents 24/7 — motion-activated technology allows the games to be played without the help of an employee.

Senior Star Director of Learning and Development Taylor Hernandez told McKnight’s Senior Living that the idea for using a magic table actually came from a program idea challenge to staff members during a February 2021 virtual company meeting.

A community memory care coordinator at Elmore Place in Davenport, IA, and another community that provided a similar idea, shared in the $1,000 challenge prize when Senior Star opted to use the Lucynt Magic Table system.

“What we liked about Lucynt was the ease of the program — it’s ‘plug and play,’” Hernandez said, adding that systems were installed in each of the company’s four memory care communities. There is no subscription, but the company pays a support fee that keeps the system updated. 

The systems are one of Senior Star’s brain power signature programs, although Hernandez said it also could fall under exercise and movement, and socialization. 

“This checked all the boxes,” she said. 

Hernanzdez said that staff members appreciate that the system was designed with input from healthcare professionals.

“It’s designed to make the lives of those who live and work in a dementia care setting more meaningful,” she said. “Anything and everything that we collectively — senior living and memory care specifically, can do that can make the world of our associates as supported and as easy to engage with residents as possible, it’s what we all strive to do.”

Trend setter

Fellowship Community won the Gold award in the Quality category of the Senior Living track of the 2020 McKnight’s Excellence in Technology Awards for its version of a magic table.

The community was looking for new ways to engage its memory care residents when an online search led to a table top virtual activity center — now commonly referred to as a magic table — used in Europe but not yet available in the United States. 

The Fellowship Community team cobbled together specialty software with a commercially available computer and projector to cast interactive videos on a table.