Posted on January 26, 2018 by staff

‘Magic table’ brings hope to people with dementia


A former high-flying lawyer is following his passion of helping people with dementia after the harrowing experience of his father’s battle with the illness.

A chance conversation between John Ramsay and Tovertafel founder Hester Le Riche led to him leaving behind his career in corporate law to bring its ground-breaking ‘Magic Table’ technology to UK care homes.

John’s father David had been a leading consultant orthodontist at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital before he was diagnosed with early-onset dementia aged 52, which meant he was no longer allowed to work or drive.

“Taking that routine away from him was like pushing him off a cliff edge in terms of his life,” John told BusinessCloud. “Dad’s behaviour and cognitive abilities dramatically declined and he became frustrated and angry.”

John acted as his father’s carer during periods throughout his teens. Eventually the family took the difficult decision to place David in a care home. A week before John’s finals at Oxford University, aged in his early 60s, he passed away.

“Because I went through a traumatic experience, I did what I thought society expected me to do with my life: I went to college, to Oxford then got a job with Linklaters law firm. I found myself on a treadmill living someone else’s life,” he said.

“I wasn’t fulfilling this nagging feeling that I wanted to do something which benefits society.”

Two years ago he travelled to South Africa for the wedding of friend Hester, who told him she was doing a PhD aimed at using technology to improve the lives of people living with dementia.

He agreed to introduce Tovertafel – Dutch for ‘Magic Table’ – to the UK and started socially responsible company Shift 8 in London with friend Mehdi Bedioui to do just that.

Installed in around 150 care homes in the UK to date, its ceiling-mounted technology projects digital images on to any table which people living with dementia can interact with as they sit, promoting physical and cognitive stimulation as well as social interaction. Examples of games include sweeping leaves off the table, batting a beach ball across it or popping bubbles.

John explained: “The hardest thing with Dad was him not being able to remember who I was. I’d hold his hand and walk around with him or sit and have a cup of tea, but I had zero relationship with him.

“Hester has created a medium which scientifically would have worked to allow me to build a relationship with my dad again: that would have meant the world to me, to see a smile and a flicker of the man he once was.

“There’s no way my Dad would have been able to remember a piece of arithmetic, but sweeping up leaves or picking flowers are things he would have done his whole life since he was very young. They would have been very natural to him.”

Unique games delivered through Tovertafels are now also being used to help people with learning disabilities and autism.