Handy objects: People with dementia try out specially designed products

People living with dementia at a group in Kent looked at products designed to be felt, handled and fiddled with.

The Tunbridge Wells Peer Support Group meets twice a month in Southborough, a northern area of the Kent town. It provides a relaxed, friendly and supportive place for people with dementia to meet each other, get information and share experiences. 

We visited them to hear what they thought of two products from our shop that are designed to help stimulate and relax people with dementia. 

Fidget Widgets 

Five Fidget Widgets have been developed by the University of Central Lancashire, Alzheimer’s Society and Active Minds, each using a specific motion – spin, slide, twist, turn or roll. They’re designed to give people with dementia engaging and interactive things to do with their hands. 

Fidget Widget Tool Kit

Fidget Widget Tool Kit.

As Kathleen at the group observed, ‘Later on, people have often got fiddly hands.’ 

The widgets are available singly or altogether as the Fidget Widget Tool Kit, and people liked the fact that they were all made out of wood. 

Sue said, ‘I prefer wood to plastic,’ and John agreed, saying wood feels more ‘real’. Isabel added that plastic can feel sharper on corners and edges than wood. 

‘Wood feels warmer,’ said Kathleen. 

Sue said she uses a fidget spinner when she’s feeling nervous while out and about, because it’s small enough to carry in her handbag. Sarah wondered if there could be smaller versions of widgets that could fit into a bag or pocket, and if one widget could combine different motions. 

‘It’s a challenge to try and stop the ball bearing from going around,’ said John.

Bob said, ‘These are all great – I like the beads on the Slide widget.’ 

John liked the Roll widget, ‘It’s a challenge to try and stop the ball bearing from going around.’ 

Although Ray liked the noises that some widgets made when used, he wondered if others might be irritated by them. However, no one thought they would, and Isabel said she found the sound of the Roll widget relaxing. 

Fay wondered if the Spin widget would break if you squeezed its two sections together, as some might want to do when using it. Isabel also said it was the least obvious to know how to use, as your fingers could get in the way of the movement. 

John asked how much you’d have to pull the string on the Slide widget before it snapped and the beads came off. Isabel noted that the widgets should all be child friendly, especially since they’d make good activities to do with younger relatives. 

John said the individual widgets would make good stocking fillers, and the Roll and Twist widgets were the most popular among group members. 

Bud Sensory Cushion 

The group tried out the Bud Sensory Cushion, undoing buttons and poppers to open up the fabric outer ‘petals’. This in turn revealed inner petal shapes of various textures and sounds – shiny and dull, crunchy and smooth. There were also places to attach small items with special meaning for the person. 

Bud Sensory Cushion

Bud Sensory Cushion.

‘They’re nice bright colours,’ said Kathleen. ‘It’s something to fiddle with, open and close up again.’ 

‘I love the fleecy feel,’ said Sue, stroking one of the inner surfaces.

‘It’s like having a cat,’ Sarah added, to which Ray joked, ‘Except you don’t have to feed it!’ 

‘You can take it apart, ‘but it’s easy to reassemble too,’ said Sarah.

Clive said, ‘You can organise the “petals”, stack them together and pull them around.’ 

‘You can take it apart,’ said Sarah, ‘but it’s easy to reassemble too – good for people with different levels of dexterity.’ 

‘I don’t think we are at the stage where we would need this,’ said John, ‘but we need to think ahead.’ 

He added, ‘It’s like twiddle boards that we make at Sherwood Men’s Shed for people with dementia staying in the local hospital. Those have attachments like plug sockets and chains to fiddle with.’ 

The group enjoyed the idea that they felt a bit like the millionaires on the BBC show Dragons’ Den, with us pitching ideas to them, and we were very grateful for their feedback.

Daily living aids

If you have dementia or are supporting someone who does, our online shop includes a range of great products to make everyday life a bit easier.

Browse our shop

These handy products – along with a range of other helpful products and gifts – are available from our online shop.

Prices without VAT (you don’t have to pay VAT if it’s bought to be used by a person with dementia or other condition) – prices correct as of October 2019.

  • Fidget Widget Tool Kit is £49.96
  • Individual Fidget Widgets are £10.82
  • Bud Sensory Cushion is £39.95

Dementia together magazine: Oct/Nov 19

Dementia together magazine is for everyone in the dementia movement and anyone affected by the condition.
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Dementia together magazine is for everyone in the dementia movement and anyone affected by the condition.
Subscribe now