Memory Innovations Centre fills gap in services for seniors

September 5, 2023

Exercise … we all know it’s good for us and, if we’re honest, we do feel better for doing it. After all, exercise bumps up the production of our brain’s ‘feel-good’ hormones called endorphins. But did you know that exercise can reduce your risk of dementia? It was this fact that spurred the development of CatholicCare’s Memory Innovations Centre in January 2020, and clients keep coming back, term in and term out.   

One of those clients is 94-year-old Rose who has been attending classes since day one. “She just loves it,” says Team Leader Senior Specialist, Michelle Dickson. Over the last few years Rose has been attending cooking, dance and exercise classes at the Memory Innovation Centre, and these classes have played a significant role in keeping Rose active in the community. “She is still driving,” Michelle says. “She recently passed her driving test, and she is very active in the community, regularly attending a Spanish group. Rose cooks from all the recipes that she has learnt in her cooking classes and she passes them onto other people. Rose often encourages new clients to come and trial our groups.” 

The inspiration for the Memory Innovations Centre came out of what Services for Seniors Manager, Shane Watson perceived as a significant gap in services for seniors. “Shane applied for an innovation funding grant after noticing that there were no services that catered for people who had mild cognitive impairment or an early dementia diagnosis,” says Michelle. “With the day centres you have to come and partake in a full day of activities and it’s often the same thing day in and day out. There was definitely a gap in the sector and a need for the Memory Innovations Centre.” 

The programs that run out of the centre are based on current research and science. “The research shows that exercise is the common denominator in reducing the risk of dementia but also reducing the decline in someone with dementia. There is a 40% reduction in the risk of dementia in somebody who exercises regularly,” Michelle says. “In terms of cognitive training, there is research to show that doing some kind of cognitive training stimulates the brain which, in turn, can reduce our risk of developing dementia or may slow the rate deterioration for someone with dementia.” 

There are many success stories from the Memory Innovations Centre since its launch three years ago. Clients who have been attending the exercise class are becoming stronger, and for the clients who were having regular falls, these have reduced significantly. Michelle believes that one of the great successes of the Memory Innovations Centre is the social engagement that it has enabled. “A lot of people are really socially isolated, and COVID has further increased isolation and loneliness,” Michelle says. “Our clients have come together as a community and they catch up with each other outside of our programs, for coffee and walks. It has provided them with a new support network and sense of belonging.  

The Memory Innovations Centre now has classes in three locations at Waitara, Erina and The Entrance. The demand for the program is rapidly growing, with new locations being suggested and explored. “This year we have tripled in size and have 5-6 new groups,” says Shane Watson. “Seniors in the community are desperate for something different to the traditional respite centre. Health outcomes are at the centre of what we do and the groups we run.” 

If you would like to find out more, please call us today on 1800 324 924. 


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