A desire for independence

May 24, 2023

In many ways Jan and Joan, who participate in weekly classes at the Memory Innovations Centre (MIC), are like chalk and cheese. “I love socialising,” says Joan, who has coffee every morning with friends. Jan describes herself as a little more introverted, but one thing they have in common is their desire for independence. “A lot of my friends reject community initiatives like the Memory Innovations Centre because they think it is a sign of weakness. I think the opposite – the more I challenge my brain and my body, the longer I can stay independent,” Joan says and Jan nods in agreement. 

Joan has lived alone for three years after her husband died. “I am determined not to be a burden on my children, so I am trying my best to stay fit,” Joan says. “I have a balance problem and I think my memory is starting to go, which concerns me a little.”

Jan has also lived alone since her husband passed away and is the proud owner of a greyhound. “Unfortunately, I can’t walk my dog due to my bad back. I have arthritis and can’t do a lot of the things I would like to. That’s why coming to the MIC is great – we do puzzles and all sorts of memory activities. These are all things that will ultimately help my independence.”

Every Wednesday morning, Jan and Joan participate in a one hour Brain Games class, followed by the Let’s Get Moving exercise class. The Brain Games program is designed to stimulate participants’ brains by engaging them in new learning experiences and education. Sessions include problem solving, riddles, quizzes and app-based training. After an hour of brain stimulation, the focus turns to the rest of the body, and Jan and Joan move through a series of cardiovascular, strength and balance exercises.  

Both ladies agree that the social aspect of the classes is one of the most beneficial aspects. “It’s one thing to do puzzles and exercise alone at home, but when you do it alongside others with similar needs, it really stretches you,” Joan says. “I think interacting with other people is good for my memory.” 

Joan describes the facilitators as fabulous. “I’ve always enjoyed puzzles, but now I’m learning how important they are, so I’m motivated to keep doing them.”

Joan heard about the Memory Innovations Centre through a notice in her parish bulletin. When her husband died, his wish was for her to be safe, happy, and independent, and she saw these classes as a sure step towards achieving that. “Six months before my husband died, he was rushed to the hospital in an ambulance and that was the first time in my life I had been alone in a house at night. I’ll never forget that night – I could hear every noise on the street and didn’t feel safe. Shortly after this night, my husband made plans for us to move into a more secure and accessible unit, which is a bit like Fort Knox. He wanted me to feel safe and be as independent as possible – signing up for MIC classes was another step towards maintaining my independence.” 

Each week, Jan and Joan leave class feeling motivated and connected. “Seeing other people with similar needs is just what I needed,” says Joan. “We all encourage each other and benefit from the positive reinforcement.”

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