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Table tennis trial served up in Dementia Action Week

Published: 24/05/2019

A local mental health Trust is working to trial a special new form of table tennis as a way to help people with dementia.

Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation NHS Trust (BSMHFT) is using a specially designed table to help service users stay active in an engaging way. The aim of the game is to improve hand-eye coordination, motor skills and memory. The technique also provides a way to socialise and interact with others in playing a game of accessible table tennis. 

A purpose-built bright white curved table tennis table helps players to keep a stark orange ball in play with the aim of sharing as many return hits as possible. The engagement prolongs attention span and can improve peripheral vision, spatial awareness and field mapping. It is also hoped that engaging in the activity will reduce agitation and promote wellbeing to improve the quality of life of people with dementia.

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NHS staff are being trained by representatives of the Bounce Alzheimer’s Therapy project (BAT) at the Juniper Centre today (Friday 24 May) in a scheme that forms part of a wider programme that is developing the ways sport can improve mental health in the West Midlands. Improving Mental Health Through Sport is a partnership between Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health Foundation Trust (BSMHFT), Newman University, Sport Birmingham, and the West Midlands Combined Authority. It seeks to develop understanding of the way in which participation in sport can help to improve mental health and wellbeing. 

Charlotte Bailey, Executive Director of Strategic Partnerships, BSMHFT said:

“We are pleased to be working with partners in the West Midlands to make better use of sport to help improve mental health and wellbeing.

“Our team at the Juniper Centre are looking forward to trialling this new approach using a fantastic new form of table tennis. We hope to see many of the people with dementia we care for trying it out and benefitting as a result.”  

West Midlands Mayor Andy Street said: “We have recently seen on television the positive impact that getting people with dementia singing has on their wellbeing and we want to look at how the world’s number one brain sport - table tennis - can make a similar positive difference, helping people to live well and helping our dementia services pioneer work in Birmingham.”

Ian Craigton-Chambers, Creative Director and founder of BAT explains: 

“The Juniper Centre has been selected to be one of seven UK sites who will be part of a research programme into dementia. We are currently installing these innovative tables in care homes, community centres and NHS hospitals across the country.”