Birds of a Feather Dementia Cafe

11 Mar 2020


The Dementia Café at Cross Gates and District Good Neighbours runs once a month with an average attendance of 15 people including carers. It has a varied programme of activities within the group including craft activities, pamper sessions and music themed activities.

As part of the cafe’s launch as a Digital Health Hub, it started to introduce digital technology into its Dementia Café. Most members of the group hadn’t used computers, iPads or other digital technology before. One of the first challenges staff and volunteers faced was finding a ‘hook’ for the members. They explored apps and websites to engage them based on their hobbies and interests and around the theme of reminiscence.

Digital games were introduced into the sessions to begin with, like Solitaire, bowling apps and puzzles. For some members it would be a struggle to use the touch screen and it would take time to show them how to use it. There was a focus on making sure they didn’t become frustrated with the technology. The members really enjoyed the games and many couldn’t believe they were using an iPad.

By pairing the familiar with the unfamiliar, members were gently welcomed into the world of digital technology and all of the benefits it can bring. Some of the reluctant members were inspired to take part by the more confident personalities and it provided lots of laughter and a fantastic atmosphere in the room.

The team used a simple drawing app where members would use only their fingers on the tablets to draw. It was important that the session was social, so they gave one iPad to two members so they could play together instead of in isolation.

They kept the games simple and played noughts and crosses and hangman. The members loved using the technology and making the shapes with their fingers. It was something they could do so no one was left out. The carers said they felt like Picasso after creating artwork and colourings in such a short space of time.

One said: “As a carer we deserve a break too, and finding an enjoyable activity to do like this makes my day.”

After exploring different apps and resources to suit the group, the team found that overall, the game apps, the music on YouTube and Google Earth were the most effective tools. They were able to show members the streets they grew up in and encourage conversations around memories. The digital tools have enhanced the café. The sessions are simple, using apps they can play together to encourage social interaction and encourage carers and their loved ones to talk, laugh together and support each other as well as share their skills.

The team plans to use the digital technology to show slideshows of more old photos of Leeds, and bring more music into the sessions to encourage more reminiscing. Playing their wedding songs and songs they loved in their youth via YouTube and using radio apps has had such a positive effect on the café. It has brought friendships together for both the carers and the members with dementia.

One staff member said: “Seeing so many of the members engaging with the digital technology has been very emotional. Seeing the power it’s had to create these wonderful moments is fantastic.”

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