Recent research undertaken by the Department of Health and Alzheimer’s UK has shown that there is an argument for encouraging activity based approaches with dementia patients, which help them keep their mind active and reconnect with their surroundings. So, in 2009, when Ben Atkinson-Willes’ grandfather was sadly diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, he was encouraged to play games, his favourite quickly becoming jigsaw puzzles. However, Ben began to notice that as his grandfather began to deteriorate his ability to play games became harder and the variety of games that he could use became limited, with the carers having to resort to giving him children’s toys.
It was during this difficult time that Ben, a design student at Kingston University, realised that there was a need for age-appropriate, suitable games for dementia patients and Active Minds was born. Using his skills as a product designer and inspired by his grandfather’s love of jigsaw puzzles, Ben started creating his first range of award winning jigsaw puzzles. He needed to take into account a number of important factors when designing the game; the pieces had to be large enough and tactile enough to be used by elderly hands unaided, and to include images that would resonate with the patient. Initial tests yielded great results, with one elderly dementia patient starting to reminisce about his time in the war as he completed a puzzle with a picture of a Spitfire.
Today Active Minds is a thriving company, with a variety of specially designed games for dementia patients, including picture books and exercise DVDs. For more information visit their website www.Active-Minds.co.uk