“Bringing Joy to the Elderly Through LEGO® Play”

Two educators based in the UAE are leading the charge in promoting construction play as a way to combat the challenges of aging and strengthen family bonds.

LEGO® bricks are often associated with fond childhood memories of playtime with loved ones. However, Saira Gulamani, a teacher and long-time resident of the UAE, believes that these iconic building blocks are not just for kids. She sees them as valuable tools to engage the minds of the elderly.

As a full-time robotics, coding, and AI educator in Dubai schools, Gulamani is also the founder of doyourbit.xyz, an online platform offering resources for students of all ages based on the micro:bit coding computer. With eight years of experience as a LEGO bricks educator, she has a special interest in using construction play to benefit the elderly. Gulamani highlights how LEGO bricks can enhance communication, memory, motor skills, and most importantly, foster connections with younger family members. This is particularly significant in the UAE, where elderly individuals often live with their families rather than in care facilities.

Global research from the LEGO Group underscores the therapeutic advantages of LEGO play for older adults. The 2022 Play Well Report reveals that a high percentage of adults in Saudi Arabia and the UAE find play essential for their happiness, with many crediting LEGO bricks for improving their mental health.

Gulamani, the only certified Six Brick facilitator in the UAE, conducts workshops at 4getmenot, an Alzheimer’s patient support group in Dubai. These sessions, aimed at improving memory, cognitive function, and motor skills through LEGO play, have been met with enthusiasm and extended engagement from participants.

Desirée Vlekken, the founder of 4getmenot, praises the impact of incorporating LEGO play into the group’s activities, noting the joy and sense of freedom it brings to the participants. By tapping into the nostalgia of childhood pastimes, these sessions foster social interaction, boost mood, and stimulate cognitive abilities among the elderly.

Through her work, Gulamani aims to bridge generational gaps and bring families closer together, emphasizing the universal appeal and inclusivity of construction play. The LEGO 0-99 philosophy, which recognizes no age or language barriers, makes it a truly accessible and engaging activity for all.

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