Training the brain important
Irene and Roy Finlay participating in other wellbeing activities during regular village life
Metlifecare retirement villages say they focus on residents’ mental agility to protect their wellbeing
Across New Zealand there are pockets of retirees leading the way in intellectual wellbeing, staying connected and keeping their brains fitter than ever.
For residents of Metlifecare, strong communities and access to intellectually stimulating activities has kept them busy and active during lockdown.
Metlifecare’s in-house psychologist and Learning and Development Manager, Vicky Varlamova, says intellectual stimulation is important; research shows that training and maintaining mental fitness can produce many benefits.
“If you train your brain like you train your body at the gym, studies show you can improve select brain skills which can play an important role in maintaining overall brain health, which is especially important when you are 70 plus.”
“I believe the more you train your brain, the more core improvements will be seen in short- and long-term memory.”
The trick, she says, is doing it regularly – at least 15 minutes per day – and keeping it fun.
“Many retirement villages provide regular brain training in group settings to cover all aspects of intellectual wellness, including cultural and community activities,” says Varlamova.
While Covid-19 has posed a challenge to the retirement village industry to keep residents – who are usually quite social – engaged and stimulated, Metlifecare has embraced the challenge and gone digital.
To combat the disruption to regular village life, Metlifecare designed a Virtual Village, with an array of brainteasers as well as printable activities to keep residents connected, engaged and sharp as a tack.
Kathy and David Sims, two resident quizmasters missing their regular weekly quiz night, say the Virtual Village (which includes New Zealand’s longest daily quiz) was the answer to their quizzing prayers.
Kathy, 78, and David, 75, who have lived at Longford Park for seven years, say they’re keeping their minds more active than ever.
Quiz masters, David and Kathy Sims, residents at Longford Park.
“Years ago, we started the Longford Park Monday quiz nights and what initially began as only 15 – 20 residents quickly grew to over 60.
“When lockdown started, and we realised we couldn’t host quiz nights any more, we were happy to have the Virtual Village come along. Then Metlifecare offered us the opportunity to come on board as quizmasters,” says Kathy.
Since then, the couple have rounded up a team of almost 20 of their fellow residents who take turns to pull together the weekend quizzes.
“It’s great, we all keep connected and take turns creating the quiz for the other residents nationwide who we hope enjoy it as much as we enjoy making it.”
Residents at Pinesong Retirement Village go head to head with The Chase star, Shaun Wallace/ Photo / Supplied.
In regular village life, residents can participate in a number of activities designed to help keep the brain fit and functioning – including bingo, quiz nights, book clubs and mahjong.
Residents are also encouraged to initiate and run their own activities, like the Sims’ introduction of a quiz night to Longford Park.
Varlamova says the benefit of a retirement village is that it offers opportunities to stay mentally active among like-minded individuals and provides residents the access to the resources needed.
“Equally important in keeping the brain active is a community setting,” she says.
“Residents encourage one another to participate in these intellectual wellbeing activities and, more importantly, to have fun. You’re more likely to succeed if you aren’t doing the activities alone.”
For residents Irene and Roy Finlay, the community at Greenwich Gardens, where they have lived for five years, has given them a sense of belonging.
Irene, 80, says the residents and staff are like an extended family and the activities meet all their needs: “We know we made the right move. We’re part of a great community here and it keeps us very busy. In normal village life there is always something to do.
“Even during this Covid-19 lockdown, we haven’t felt isolated and we’re well looked after. Everybody looks out for each other,” she says.