Magic table for dementia and autism sufferers launched at library

Gina Fox


Gina Fox


IT’S not everyday that Offaly Central Library in Tullamore launches a table but last Friday week it did just that when it unveiled the Tovertafel, which means “magic table” in English. The Dutch innovation is designed to help people with dementia and those with autism in a gentle, fun and creative way.

The first Tovertafel, the Tovertafel Original, emerged from PhD research by Hester Le Riche at the Delft University of Technology, Netherlands.

Speaking prior to the launch, Acting Senior Executive Librarian Martina Needham explained that the inventors of the table wanted to improve the life of people with dementia and from their observations they noted these people seemed to withdrawn into themselves and they compared their lives to a Christmas Tree where the colourful lights were being switched off one by one.

“The whole idea of the magic table is dementia sufferers get to tweak the lights, turn some of those lights on and give them new experiences and new happy memories, or try to connect with memories from the past, so they have a better sense of well-being,” explained Martina.

The table contains 20 different games, particularly geared towards people with dementia, special needs, autism or learning difficulties. Some are soothing others are competitive. But as Martina outlined “there is no sense of loss, so no matter what happens they (participants) don’t lose and they will always be able to re-connect with the game.”

The table is extremely colourful and entertaining and has images of floating fish, balloons, leaves, trains etc. The magic table will be a permanent fixture in the library and can be booked by individuals or groups. A library staff member will take participants through the various games and explain how to use it.

At the launch last Friday morning September 27, Offaly County Librarian Eimear McGinn welcomed everyone and introduced the Cathaoirleach of Offaly County Council Cllr Peter Ormond who said one of the goals of the Offaly Age Friendly strategy 2018-2021is to provide opportunities for older people to stay socially connected and play an active part in social networks. He said this particular piece of equipment can contribute to that aim. He paid tribute to the staff of Offaly Libraries who made the application to the Department of Rural and community development to enhance “the existing excellent facilities in our libraries.” The Offaly library service received a grant of €87,698 Offaly county council assisted by providing 25 per cent in matched funding, Cllr Ormond outlined.

The chief executive officer of Offaly County Council, Anna Marie Delaney said the council was delighted to have the magic table in the library and described it as “another tool within the programme of mental health initiatives, in conjunction with the council and the whole community development committee.”

Catherine McGuigan chief executive officer with Age Friendly Ireland told the audience that by 2036 the population of people in Ireland over 65 will have doubled. “We think that’s light years away but it’s 17 years,” she stressed. “What the world health organisation recognised is that this poses challenges, but it also presents opportunities and the age friendly programme sets out to harness that.”

Praising the CEO of Offaly County Council Anna Marie Delaney she said, “the local authority chief executive got this and put the resources into it.”

She described Tullamore Library as “one of the most accessible buildings I’ve every seen. Not every library is at that stage but there is lots you can do in a traditional setting to make a place physically accessible and community accessible.”

She once again thanked Anna Marie Delaney for her leadership as Chief Executive also Bridie Costello who she said was “one of the most hard working age friendly managers in the country and county librarian Eimear McGinn. Hopefully there will be an age friendly table in all libraries across Offaly,” she concluded.

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