By Macy Roberts, CEHHS Student Reporter, Class of 2024
At one point in time, Jennifer Perion, a professor in the Department of Public Health in the College of Education, Health and Human Sciences (CEHHS) at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, was the only person in the United States to own a unique piece of Dutch technology.
Developed in the Netherlands by the company Tover, the Tovertafel is a console used to encourage interactive play among seniors with dementia. Through projecting images and games onto a flat platform from above and detecting movement through its infrared sensors, the Tovertafel encourages physical, social and cognitive engagement in an attempt to reduce apathy in nursing home residents.
Perion was first introduced to Tover and the Tovertafel when a friend shared a YouTube video about the product in 2018. At that time, Tover was only operating in Western Europe. However, the company’s website listed they were searching for researchers to study their new technology.
After a series of interviews, Tover agreed to work with Perion and her colleague Victoria Steiner from the University of Toledo and sent them a Tovertafel in December 2019. The COVID-19 pandemic unfortunately put a pause on their research, which they have since resumed this past summer.
Perion and Steiner are currently collecting data on the Tovertafel in a nursing home located in Toledo, Ohio, and are preparing to install an additional Tovertafel in a second nursing home by summer 2023.
Last fall, the Tover team reached out to Perion and Steiner and invited them to speak about their research at the first Tover Summit in Amsterdam in June 2023.
“I am fortunate to have developed professional friendships with several people at Tover, so I am excited to meet them in person finally and see the Tover facilities,” Perion said.
According to the Tover website, the first Tovertafel was launched in 2015. Today, over 4,000 care institutions are using the Tovertafel worldwide.
Tover is now in the process of expanding further into the North American market. As the only authorized U.S. researcher at the moment, Perion is excited to see the Tovertafel begin to be used in American facilities.
“I am also looking forward to learning more about ways that multi-sensory interventions have been developed by researchers and healthcare organizations in different countries and of course sharing the initial findings of our study,” Perion said.
Perion acknowledged that dementia patients are typically shielded from innovation because maintaining a predictable environment makes caring for them easier. But just like all adults, Perion said those with dementia “crave new experiences and challenges.”
“The Tovertafel is specially designed to deliver interactive games that increase social, cognitive and physical engagement while providing enjoyable interactions between caregiver and care receiver,” Perion said. “Certainly there are other ways to introduce multisensory activities, but the Tovertafel is exciting in its thoughtful design for people with moderate to severe dementia.”