In 2009, Ben Atkinson-Willes experienced firsthand what it’s like to care for a loved one with dementia. Ben was a design student at Kingston University, when his grandfather developed Alzheimer’s disease. He very quickly found that there was a lack of suitable activities available for people and carers living with dementia. This meant families and carers would usually resort to using children’s toys to provide stimulation to those they cared for. However, these were not age-appropriate and were therefore unsuitable. For this reason Ben created a range of activities as part of a University project for adults living with dementia. He was offered funding by the University to turn it into a business venture and so, at just 23, Ben had founded Active Minds.
Ben worked closely with St. Georges Hospital and Kingston University to develop his first range of jigsaw puzzles designed specifically for people with dementia. He arranged consultations with carers in a local home and began working with the head of dementia care at St. George’s hospital.
“I used my own skills as a product designer and asked myself key questions: what images would help to invoke memories; could someone living with dementia complete a puzzle unaided? I set about testing the activities in care homes, and saw some remarkable results. I observed a resident who was living with dementia begin to talk in detail about his time in the war as he completed a puzzle with a picture of a Spitfire. It was these successes that drove me to carry on developing activities that could help deliver a better quality of care for people living with dementia.” Ben Atkinson-Willes
Active Minds clients now include many individual carers, the NHS, Age UK and Bupa, with products selling across Europe and North America.
There are approximately 800,000 people in the UK living with dementia, and an estimated 36 million people worldwide. The UK’s rapidly aging population will only continue to increase pressures on the care sector, and families and society more widely. Active Minds hopes that by providing meaningful and engaging activities it will help reduce problems of depression, boredom and isolation so commonly associated with dementia. Our recent social impact report showed that 100% of professional carers and 80% of family members felt the activities improved the quality of life of people with dementia.
With many more products already under development Active Minds is dedicated to continue improving the quality of life of people living with dementia, their families and carers.