Training brains at the library

Article image - Training brains at the library A brain training participant trying her hand at Zen doodling.

A brain training program at Gunnedah Shire Council Library was initially aimed at older residents, but has expanded due to high demand.

The regional New South Wales council began the Brain Training in the Library program in May last year as part of Library and Information Week. It is a joint Community Care/Library initiative.  

The activities presented target memory, visual observation, pattern recognition, vocabulary, logical thinking, decision-making, creativity, number skills, non-dominant hand use, comprehension, and fine motor skills in a cheerful and supportive setting.  

Activities include code breaking, spot the differences or find the objects, memory training, mazes, drawing or cutting out with the non-dominate hand, comprehension and word games such as know the definition. Origami, Zen doodling and computer games such as Speed Scrabble and Jigsaw of the Day are also available.

Participants are given a booklet in which they can record the activities and their score, following their progress each week. They also receive information on brain health and cyber safety. Morning tea is provided, and participants enjoy networking before and after the sessions.  

Although the program was initially aimed at older people, it has quickly expanded due to demand and now includes interested members of the public, including people from Challenge House.

Sessions have been presented at the nursing and retirement village homes, and activities are sent to Community Care for further distribution. The library has used session activities with the Community College Foundation Studies class.  

The social aspect of the program is enormous; several participants have renewed their library membership and are borrowing books, and all have become more outgoing and comfortable in what was an unfamiliar setting.  

There is much interaction between the participants during the sessions; they support each other and share knowledge, and several have contributed activities to be used.

There is also a tremendous boost to the participants’ self-confidence and morale as they, particularly the older members, realise they can do the activities competently and improve their skills.  

Demand has been such that the programme now runs twice each Monday – morning and afternoon – both usually fully booked.  

An off shoot of Brain Training is Zen Tangling, held once a month in conjunction with local artist Pat Tobin, who teaches participants the finer points of Zen doodling, colour and creativity.  

It has also branched out to Junior Brain Games held in conjunction with the Community Hub worker. This is an after school activity targeting primary aged children, and includes a 15 minute storytelling and book discussion segment, four brain games, and handicraft. It’s held once a week and is fully booked.  

Brain Training at the library was shortlisted for the Local Government Excellence Awards in 2016.