Keith plays in the garden with his grandson

‘Keeping an active mind’: Testing games and activities for people with dementia

Keith Oliver worked as a headteacher before he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2010. He now finds a sense of purpose in other things that keeps his mind active. With the help of his grandson, Keith has tested out some games and activities for people living with dementia.

I was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease aged 55. Since then, I have tried my best to live as well as possible with the challenges the disease has presented to me and my wife. 

I am proud to be an Alzheimer’s Society Ambassador, and to have initiated and developed the role of NHS Dementia Envoy in Kent. Both of these roles help give me a purpose and a sense of continuing to contribute to society. After 33 years in primary education as a teacher, headteacher and adviser I feared that was something that might have ended after my diagnosis.

My family are very important to me, and no one more so than my 11 year-old grandson, William. He recently helped me test some excellent games and activities from Active Minds for people with dementia.

Jigsaw puzzles

First we tried some jigsaw puzzles which are extremely well designed and made with good quality materials. They cover a range of interests and abilities, with four levels of difficulty and size. 

‘The puzzles feature clear illustrations which means something to people like me who have enjoyed travel, but also fun activities nearer to home.’

The pieces were manageable and the fact that you create the puzzle in its own box added to the ease of completion.

Keith painting with his grandson

Keith paints with his grandson, William

Painting

Next we tested the Aquapaint products. I am now hopeless at drawing and art but do still appreciate colour and artforms. 

‘The Aquapaint items were great fun and revealed superb images – the bonus then being they fade when dry so you can enjoy the magic again and again.’ 

Once more the subject matter was very much a part of our lived everyday experience. I later took them to a dementia group I attend and everyone there was so pleased to be successful and produce something so attractive.

Word puzzles

Writing and spelling is now harder for me with dementia so the Word Searches were a bit of a challenge. 

This gave me an opportunity to enlist Williams’s help. He enjoyed helping grandad with these and we both drew great satisfaction from us completing them together. 

He commented that the themes were interesting to both an older person and an eleven year old!

Our feedback

My wife Rosemary, William and his mum Karon (our daughter) also contributed to the feedback which we gave to Alzheimer’s Society and Active Minds. I know this will be taken on board so that future products will maintain this same high standard of design, manufacture and potential use by people from a wide range of difficulties caused by dementia.

Whilst I could successfully manage most of the items on my own, the pleasure of the intergenerational aspect of doing them with William was so rewarding. His comment after we finished was, “it was great doing ALL of the activities with grandad”. 

Next time I see him the box of goodies will come out again alongside some others I’ve received since – we are both looking forward to this!

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7 comments

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Thank you Alzheimer's Society for this opportunity which I hope others will be able to benefit from.

A brilliant blog, a wonderful way of making the most out life and inspiring others to experiment.

Great to see Keith contributing on every level! So proud to know him and his family.

Anything that can prolong a clear and semi concise mind will help
Hers hoping a miracle cure for this disease can be found eventually to help clear the brain fog for millions of people

Once when in a dementia ward in hospital I came across a pack of good sized photos of famous people from the 1930's onwards-a good mix of politicians , film stars, sportspeople , inventors, etc. I tried these out with my father and anothe r patient and they were well received and sparked lots of conversation. a bit like a quiz.

I read with interest your piece about active minds aquapaints because I have just recently purchased a couple of sets for my 93 year old mum. They are excellent but I do think they are expensive and possibly not affordable for a lot of pensioners.

My mum watches lots of TV like so many older people living alone. Wouldn’t it be great if the telly had specific programs to help those with dementia?

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