BrainTrainerPlus™ a bridge between young and old
From AS, the Monthly Activity sector (Christmas edition 2010). By Marjolein Wolf
From 2011 all public school students will take part in an internship. Many of them opt for care services. As supervisor you’ll no doubt have to deal with them. AS is curious how occupational therapists interpret these social work placements. We take a look at the Sarphatihuis in Amsterdam, where the BrainTrainerPlus™ are used to launch conversation between young and old.
The covered courtyard of the Sarphatihuis Amsterdam is very busy. The residents have an all day visit from students from the Barlaeus Gymnasium. They play games together, drink coffee and chat. But the highlight of the afternoon is the Brain Trainers where young and older people alike can be entertained with all kinds of games. Activities coordinator Laurie Kuipers said “the BrainTrainerPlus™ is an excellent means of communication between the young and old.”
When is this carriage used? On the screen of the computer displays an image of the Golden Coach. The lady behind the Brain Trainer and a schoolgirl both look at the possible answers: on Sunday? On bank holidays? On Prince’s Day? “The last one of course” she says. She touches her finger to the correct answer and laughs triumphantly as it turns out to be right. Next question. Which member of the royal family was born in Canada? The schoolgirl has no idea. But the older lady touches ‘Margaret’ without thinking too long about it. Triumphantly, she looks at the girl sitting next to her. “You should not expect, to know that, but I should know … Oh dear, I remember it clearly, Margaret’s birth. It was during the war, in 1943, and the royal family had fled to Canada. On the radio we heard that a princess had been born into the house of Orange. In those dark days, it was a wonderful moment …”
“The good thing about the BrainTrainerPlus™ is that it brings these people closer together,” says Laurie Kuipers. “Put young and old at a table, and it’s silent. But at the computer they are constantly chatting. The Brain Trainer is an easy to operate touch screen. We also tried playing on the Wii with high school students, but it turned many out that many of our residents found that rather difficult. When we learned about the BrainTrainerPlus™ we immediately bought one. Today the company sells the Brain Trainers like the ones here with more consoles, so that both young and old people can use it together. Everyone is excited and there is naturally a friendly atmosphere. An advantage of the BrainTrainerPlus™ is that it requires little preparation by us as business leaders and it reaches a large group of people. You do not have to constantly be on the ball to make sure everything is going well. There’s a supervisor around that keeps an eye on things, but it also costs us relatively little effort.”
A little further on are two students with a gentleman in a wheelchair are behind the Brain Trainer. “I think it’d great to be here one day,” says one of the students. “It’s different than I had imagined. I thought only really old people would live here, but there are also residents of about forty or fifty. They’ve had a stroke or suffer from dementia for example. When I first came here I wondered whether I could talk to people I don’t know, but the conversation is just natural. This gentleman just told me that his son went to the Barlaeus Gymnasium and where he lived. You notice that he is comfortable with us here. It feels good.”
Laurie Kuipers sees that high school students are sometimes shy about coming. The world of the elderly and their care is often the last thing on their minds. The world of computers is something very familiar to them and they are usually willing to share their “technical expertise”. “We hope that students and residents bond with each other on days like this. Perhaps the young people here may also enjoy a spontaneous walk. ”
Behind one of the Brain Trainer machines there is a 14-year-old boy with the two residents playing the memory quiz. When was Kristallnacht? Effortlessly they pick the year 1938 on the screen. “Do you know what happened?” one of them asks the student. There is a story about her experience of the Holocaust, a personal story that probably makes more of an impression on the boy than reading the facts in a history book. Next question. What does the abbreviation NAM stand for? The boy continues to answer. The lady knows that the abbreviation for the Dutch Petroleum Company was coined in 1947 because of the scarcity of oil caused by the war. “I did not think I would know so much,” says the lady. “This is a really fun game.”
When asked the by boy whether she likes the Sarphatihuis she says immediately that she doesn’t live there. Only then does it become clear that the woman is suffering from dementia and her short term memory is not functioning as well as her long term. But that does not matter. The game has allowed her to use what she still knows and clearly does it well.
Purchasing a BrainTrainerPlus™ is not cheap. But according to Laurie Kuipers it is worth the investment. “We find that the BrainTrainerPlus™ is often in use. Residents can play individually, but also with family members. The key here is the conversation that being together at the console yields. We also have a number of relatively young people here; we have agreed to offer them something that fits into their world with Brain Trainer Plus ™. Playing with the computer speaks to them more than bingo or a board game.”
If it was up to Laurie, there would be more Brain Trainers in Sarphatihuis. She sees this as a good role for the Barlaeus students. “As part of our social training, they may help in finding sponsors to fund or finance the purchase. We also want to work with the young people to develop a game about Amsterdam, which can be uploaded to the Brain Trainer Plus ™.”
One of the students has now crept behind the piano and the room fills with an impromptu piano recital. Through the informal atmosphere, the young gradually begin to feel more comfortable among the elderly. “It does me good to see that with a small gesture can make someone happy,” says one girl as we say goodbye. “I feel very close to the elderly. Perhaps later on in life I will care for the elderly. ”
What is the BrainTrainerPlus™?
The BrainTrainerPlus™ was developed by the company Qiosq Rotterdam and Schiedam care centre Frankeland. It is a touchscreen computer, where various types of memory training and games are included. “The games all have different levels,” says Hendrik Jan van Katwijk. “What matters most to the player is feeling good about themselves. We have games for both short term and long-term memory. You can play memory games on the BrainTrainerPlus™. There are also games focusing on language, logic and hand eye coordination. There are also maths quiz games. Older people often turn out to be surprisingly good at the game ‘head count’. In practice, we see what the activity leaders here have wondered about. We find that the elderly enjoy playing and their confidence increases. ”
Qiosq gives free demonstrations of the BrainTrainerPlus™. When invited the company goes to care centres for half a day to work with business managers and show them how the clients react to the computer. Van der Kroon said, “Bear in mind once you have purchased a BrainTrainerPlus™ we will regularly update it with new pictures and games.”