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ARTHUR MALTBY, author of various books - some on indexing for information retrieval - was senior lecturer then professor at Queen’s University of Belfast before becoming a civil servant in Edinburgh with the Scottish equivalent of OFSTED. Now a member of Wirral U3A and Heswall U3A. Currently Chair of Deeside & Wirral network committee.

NEED & OPPORTUNITY There is much demand for memory courses - especially with dementia being a leading cause of death. Participants needs differ: some are at the weaker end of what i call the spectrum of needs. But John Bews (Heswall U3A) and I, who run a memory workshop that has been presented at a dozen or more U3As, commend such courses to ALL Third Age people, firmly believing that - whenever possible - memory matters should be picked up early, BEFORE decline is suspected. We believe too that this is a “growth area” now for U3A.

TYPES OF MEMORY COURSE There are basically two and their philosophies are different.
(a) Bews and Maltby memory workshop (2 hours) where we display memory literature, but adapt the advice to various Third Age needs. Barnsley U3A does a somewhat similar course.

We are not medics, but take care to conform with the best current cognitive advice. Retired GPs have attended and commended us. We emphasise that no course can do the trick without follow up. Regular gentle practice is essential.

(b) A course which is basically “medical” and glances at wider health issues, devised by the late Sylvia Dillon, a clinical psychologist, it has 4 two hour sessions. Workbooks for the careful presentation of this were made available to other U3As and it has been used by at least 70.

Heswall ran her course along with my memory workshop when I was Chair (though the Aughton and Ormskirk course does not run now because presenting it proved too time consuming for our team.) Nor do Aughton and Ormskirk themselves now run it. Wetherby has also experienced both. The view at Heswall and Wetherby is that they are complementary. Many participants fit Sylvia’s image of needs, but I think her course is too apt to accept the popular assumption that memory always fades with age. It need not. But there may well be growing demand for both types of course.

RESOURCES: Third Age Press has a book by H B Gibson which relates memory issues to older people but is out of date (1995) though available, with some revision, as an ebook. Efforts are being made to generate other resources, suitable for gentle memory training in later life, which can be made available to all U3As.

BEWS & MALTBY MEMORY WORKSHOP Lastly a glance at this, run for 12-20 participants over 2 hours. After about 70 minutes, there is a break for tea, but also for gentle exercises on offer - a memory card game, some other easy mind exercises, and a memory tray with 9 objects to recall. There is then a 20 minutes final session from the presenters.

“Workshop" content includes a 35 minute gentle session from John Bews on the workings of mind and memory (he had a book published on “how to use your brain”). We emphasise the use of memory prompts in later life - to recall names, numbers etc; the power of poetry and song to help recall; analysis of some “I’ve forgotten…” situations; ideas for recalling objects on the memory tray. There is also a simple mind map showing the need to pay attention to five areas - eat well; take appropriate physical exercise; socialise; have regular mild brain work with games or puzzles you enjoy; have a variety of activities - doing something new can be especially beneficial.

We invite people to practice regularly, and to “pick and mix” from what we say, trying to be sensitive to individual participants needs according to their needs and to reassure. Sheets for retention are given out with key points.

There’s also jokes and laughter. The Bromborough U3A Chair kindly said of it: “useful, thought provoking, and delivered with a light touch”.