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Seniors train their brains


BELLEVILLE, ON (03/12/12) Bob Marcotte plays a video game designed to train his brain. Many seniors, like Bob, are trying different activities to keep their minds in shape. Photo by John Boldrick.

By John Boldrick

Bob Marcotte sits in his big comfy chair by the fire in the Quinte Living Center, talking to himself.

Usually in a retirement home, this type of behaviour would be cause for concern but for Marcotte it’s a regular occurrence and one that has a reason.

Bob is training his brain with the help of a video game. It has certainly had an effect on the 75-year old.

“I’m, fortunately, at age 40 with my brain, not the body, but the brain,” he said.

The game is called Brain Age: Train Your Brain in Minutes a Day!  It was developed by Ryuta Kawashima, a neuroscientist and professor at Tokuha University in Japan. The game measures brain functions such as a reaction time to give the player a score that shows the age of their brain.

Those who play the game can score anywhere from 20-100, indicating their brain age. The game told Marcotte he has the brain of a 40 year old. Setting the ‘low score’ is definitely something that Marcotte is proud of.

“I think it’s an excellent feeling, it makes you feel confident of yourself and what you do,” he said.

The issue of keeping your brain active has once again been brought forth. A recent study from the United States showed that those who stay mentally active have more white matter in their brain. White matter is responsible for things like transporting information throughout the brain.

Marcotte agrees with the study. He says it’s very important to keep yourself in tip top mental shape.

“Absolutely, it’s very important, otherwise we get old too fast,” said Marcotte.

That’s something that is very important to the QLC and its staff. Keeping residents active and mentally involved is one of their number one priorities.

They offer a number of activities for people to participate in. There’s bingo (for which Marcotte is the caller), euchre, and various other clubs that residents can become involved in. The facility also has an on-site library.

Megan Mccreary is an administrative assistant and all around helper at the center. She agrees with Marcotte’s view on brain health.

“I think it’s very important to overall health. I think it’s important for young people as well as older people,” said Mccreary.

She does her best to encourage brain training at the facility, a cause she believes is essential as people age.

“(It) keeps you fresh, keeps you thinking, keeps you able to do things that you need to do throughout the day from remembering to get your groceries to other things like that,” said Mccreary.

Mccreary spends much of her day interacting with the residents. She said she can see who regularly exercises their mind.

“I would say there’s a difference between residents who are active and involved and get out. Their more social, more involved for sure and I think it makes a difference in their overall health and well-being,” She said.

Aileen Johnston has lived at the center for the past six years. She prefers to spend her time reading books as well as doing crossword puzzles. While she doesn’t participate in any of the card games or bingo, she does appreciate the diversity of activities offered.

“I don’t think they can have very much more than what they have here,” she said.

Marcotte says that the center and its staff do a good job of keeping everyone active and involved.

“There’s a lot of things going on here all of the time. They try to keep a pretty close watch on us because there’s always a problem here with people getting older and developing Alzheimer’s and various other tragic diseases and they eventually have to move to a nursing home,” he said, “They try to keep on top of everything. They don’t want to see anyone get hurt or be cut off from the rest of the citizens”

While all of the activities offered increase brain activity, most of the residents don’t think of them that way. Sure, they like having the benefit of keeping their brain fit, but they mostly do it for the entertainment.

“Basically it’s just for fun but I like to get the results such as I got on this machine here. It’s kind of fun to have that too and to know that you’re not deteriorating,” said Marcotte.

The location of the QLC, on Front Street, is also important in keeping its residents active. It’s within walking distant of the empire theatre and several cafes and restaurants.

Many residents take advantage of the amenities. Marcotte believes leaving the building and going out in the city is an important part of staying healthy.

“You have to keep active physically so you can keep active mentally.”