© Danielle Robertson Consulting Pty Ltd t/as DR Care Solutions
While not yet proven, there is evidence that a number of habits from our forties onwards can help keep us sharp and stave off conditions like Alzheimer’s and dementia as we age.
Of importance is regular exercise, a healthy diet and then comes the need to keep the brain exercised through social interaction and cognitive exercises.
A brilliant brain exercise activity
Now several weekends ago I read of a brilliant weekly brain exercise undertaken at an over-50s resort in Queensland. It takes the form of a writing group called "Quills" and I’m suggesting you might like to consider setting up one of your own.
“Quills” is not about teaching creative writing or critiquing work. It is about exercising your brain and having fun with others while doing so.
The "Quills" format
The format is simple. On a weekly basis, a group of around 10 people come together for two hours (gatherings take place via Zoom during lockdowns). There is a convenor who directs proceedings.
The session starts with the homework activity. Everyone comes along with their 300 words on a topic - be it a phrase, a word or an idea - previously set by the convenor.
Rather like a warm-up exercise, these homework pieces, of roughly half a page, are read out to the group.
Then, with a cup of tea or coffee in hand, the real brain exercise begins with the convenor setting a subject and everyone given around 10 to 15 minutes to write something on it.
The subject maybe an out-of-date word, an imaginary word or phrase, a picture, a cartoon or say five random words – and to add a degree of difficulty with the latter, a request that the words appear in a particular order.
These short stories are then read aloud and, invariably, with great hoots of laughter.
Other exercises follow, with their range left to the convenor’s imagination.
One exercise sees the convenor provide a list of either nouns and adjectives or verbs and adverbs. Everyone is asked to choose words from the list and then write a piece featuring those words.
Another exercise involves picking one word from the list and giving it to your neighbour who then writes a piece.
The outcome is that everyone must think, create, write the words by hand on paper, spell check, and read aloud. There are no iPads, no phones, no computers – it’s simply back to basics with you practising your handwriting, stringing a sentence together, and spelling.
Without doubt, you’ll be keeping sharp with the various different brain processes involved. Moreover, it’s about having fun and I’m told the boost of laughter from the tale telling keeps everyone buoyant for days.
Why not give it a go?
Plan out your Quills group and launch it!
It’s a brilliant idea!
In the meantime, keep up those regular brain teasers of crosswords, Sudoku and jigsaws - all good exercises to pursue on your own.
Do you know someone living with dementia?
Download our guide of activities for someone living with dementia.
For advice and assistance on how to set up the right care, support and assistance for your loved one, at the right time and in the right place, please feel free to contact me, Danielle Robertson at DR Care Solutions, for an initial discussion.
 Vicki Holman, "This (Handwriting) Life", Review Section, The Weekend Australian, 26-27 June, 2021