Google Earth

Google Earth is a free computer program or application that can be downloaded for a tablet. It provides a satellite image of the world that players navigate at their own speed, enabling them to virtually visit multiple destinations, such as where they have previously lived, future holiday destinations, or remarkable landscapes and monuments of the World. It can be used in a one-to-one interaction or as part of a group session, and is a great game for learning more about someone’s life.

Basic information


Google Earth is a computer program or app that can be downloaded for tablets. It maps the earth on to a 3D globe using images obtained from satellite imagery, aerial photography and geographic information system (GIS). Players are able to view and navigate themselves around cities, houses and streets from a bird’s eye view. It is also possible to search for addresses. Most areas are shown in a 2D aerial imagery although some areas are able to access ‘Street View.’ This provides 360 degree panoramic street level views of buildings and terrains.

Google Earth intro


There is no objective to the game. Players can be encouraged to navigate the globe to find aspects that are of interest to them. This might include places they grew up, places they have visited on holiday or famous landmarks. Players can also be asked to navigate from one place to another using the application. The game is a good way to engage people with dementia in conversation about their lives.

Google earth main


Players can navigate the globe for as long as they feel comfortable.


  • The game is free to download from the App Store or can be accessed for free online





Participants’ profile:

  • Dementia level: the game can be played by any person regardless of whether they have dementia or not. It is likely that they will need support to engage with the application and so ideally it should be used as a means to provide social interaction between people with dementia and their care partners/support workers.
  • Physical requirements:
    • Likely to require finger dexterity to navigate the globe and zoom in and out of places of interest.
    • Likely to require an element of hand-eye co-ordination when navigating the globe.
    • Players may struggle to hold and see the tablet whilst engaging with the game. Linking the tablet to a large TV screen is likely to overcome some of these issues and will enable other people to watch as the game is being played. The game can also be accessed from a computer, which may make it easier for some people to use.

Number of participants:

  • The game is for one person to play at a time although other people can engage in the conversations that are undertaken when using the application.


Material and requirements

Materials required to play the game:

  • Tablet/computer.
  • Google Earth app/online link.

Environment considerations:

  • Good lighting levels. Avoid glare.
  • The tablet can be connected to a large TV screen for people who have difficulties with their sight.
  • Tables should be available for people to sit at whilst they are playing.

Support needed

Professionals / relatives can:

  • Explain the game instructions and their variants.
  • Set-up the game by moving through the introduction pages.
  • Help players understand the required actions such as the finger movements that are needed to zoom in and out of the map.
  • Hold the tablet whilst the player engages with the game.
  • Provide questions to be discussed in groups as players engage with the game. These can include- show the group where you grew up? Where did you used to go out when you were growing up? Show me where you went on holiday? Show me where the Eiffel Tower is?

Starting point:

  • The game begins with a 3D image of the globe.


 The game can be used in whatever way the player chooses. Using the search button can enable people to find landmarks of interest or postcodes. When using a tablet, players are required to move their fingers together to zoom out of the location and spread them apart to zoom into a location. If the tablet is linked to a TV, then groups of people can watch as a player interacts with the game and can join in with the discussions. Ideally the discussions should be led by the facilitator. This can include encouraging players to show and talk about places they:

  • Grew up
  • Visited on holiday
  • Went to school
  • Would like to visit or famous landmarks they enjoy

Tours can also be set up in Google Earth that allows players to visit certain places that are associated with a particular theme, such as Modern Wonders of the World.

For a demonstration of the game see the following video:

Additional information

Practical advice

Google Earth is a great application for learning more about someone’s life. If you are working with a new group of people with dementia, you can use this application as a fun ice-breaker activity. Consider linking the iPad with a large TV screen using an iPad TV Adaptor. Once all group members can see the screen, you can encourage them individually to use the Google Earth application and show and talk about aspects of their life. For instance, this might include asking them to show the group:

  • Where they grew up as a child
  • Where they live now
  • Where they last went on holiday
  • The best destination that they have visited
  • The home of their favourite sports club

Being able to virtually visit the destination can often act as a memory prompt for people with dementia, and will enable them to engage in more detailed discussions. This is likely to start further conversations within the group, as people realise the commonalities they share with other members. As the activity facilitator, you can encourage this group conversation by asking other members of the group whether they have similar interests to the person using the iPad (e.g. has anyone else in the group also been on holiday to…?). The slow-pace of the activity will also give people a chance to become more accustomed to the iPad’s touchscreen technology. The activity is likely to work best with groups of 5-6 people, as it will enable everyone to engage with the application for a reasonable amount of time, and talk about their life.

Variants of the game:

  • The game remains the same but the conversations and the destinations players choose to visit will change depending on the theme of the activity.

Alternative games:

Similar AD-GAMING games:


  • Monitor players’ abilities to use the application.
  • Monitor and observe the conversations that are undertaken as players engage with the game.
  • Monitor and observe aspects of well-being as players engage with the game, such as whether they smile or start discussions with others in the group.

Notes / observations

  • An adaptor can be purchased that links tablets to a TV screen. This will make it easier for people with sight issues to use as well as encourage group discussions.
  • A tablet pen can be purchased which makes it easier to touch the tablet screen while interacting with the game. This is useful for players who may have finger dexterity issues.

Practical activity


Google Earth- getting to know you


30 minute game for between 1-8 players.

Prepare the game:

Place the iPad next to the player. If there are a group of players then the facilitator can place the iPad in the middle of the table and link it to a television screen so everyone can participate in the activity.

Load up the free Google Earth application.

Ask the players to think of the answers to three questions such as:

  1. Where did you live when you were younger?
  2. What was your favourite holiday?
  3. What place in earth would you most like to visit?


Taking it in turns, the facilitator asks each player their answer to the first question. When they respond the facilitator works with the player to find the place on Google Earth.

The player should lead the activity and attempt to find the place by themselves. This can be supported by the facilitator who can hold the iPad or direct the player as to the location of the place.

During the activity the facilitator should also ask other members of the group whether they have ever been to these places, and to follow the activity on the television screen.

Once the first player has found the place, the facilitator can move into the next player and ask them to do the same.

This is a great way to learn more about a player’s life and interests as well as encourage group discussion.


Facilitators can observe how players are interacting with the iPad and whether they improve as they use their fingers to navigate the virtual globe.

Facilitators can observe the conversations between the players.

Facilitators should make note of the interests of the players as this will enable them to tailor future activities towards these.


Speak to the players and ask them for their feedback on the game and their ability to interact with the iPad.

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