An engineer by training, Hester Le Riche, 38, is the CEO and, founder of Tover, and creator of a pioneering cognitive stimulation system – the Tovertafel (or ‘Magic Table’ in Dutch).
Tovertafel is the original interactive light projection system that entices those with cognitive challenges to interact and have fun together. Through colourful projections onto a table or flat surface, users can play, touch, listen or even just look on in wonder, joy and excitement.
The inspiration behind the Tovertafel came when Hester was studying for her PhD, focused on how games and play could help patients with dementia, at Delft University of Technology.
Collaborating with a leading neuropsychologist from the Netherlands, she realised that serious games could cut through the apathy experienced by 90% of care home residents to boost wellbeing and quality of life and, in turn, delay the progress of cognitive degeneration.
Trialling early versions of the technology with care home residents, Hester was touched by the reactions of surprise and delight from people with all stages of dementia – as well as their family and carers.
The result of years of study was the Tovertafel for people living with dementia, co-designed with these groups directly, as well as their families and carers. The technology is designed to prioritise the experiences of play shown to be accessible to people with late stage dementia – sensation, relaxation and reminiscence – above other elements that are only accessible to those in good cognitive health, such as competition or imagination.
Hester’s strong and authentic aim to contribute to the residents’ quality of life, carers’ enjoyment in their work and to meaningful encounters between family members has built Tovertafel’s success.
But Tovertafel is not just developed for people living with dementia. The games especially designed for adults with learning disabilities make a very social and energetic activity. The Tovertafel brings people with moderate to serious learning disabilities together in their natural surroundings. The result? A lot of fun and a lively and comfortable atmosphere. The games are unique because of their grown-up character and their accessibility for people with differing developmental levels. The Tovertafel has added value for each client: some actively join in on the fun, while others take part from a distance.
Le Riche’s ultimate mission is to evoke 10 million moments of happiness per day in care and education.