An interview with Dr Jennifer MacRitchie from the MARCS Institute for Brain Behaviour and Development at University of Western Sydney was broadcast on ABC 891 on 14 June 2016.
Dr Mc Ritchie said research shows that the brain is plastic all the way through life and so we can learn new things all the time. This means that it is never too late to pick up a musical instrument. Research is being conducted at the University of Western Sydney on the benefits that older adults can gain from learning to play an instrument, such as the piano, at a later stage in life.
“The important thing for adults is that it doesn’t matter how well you are playing it, it is about learning to have some fun, and it is giving you all these added benefits along the way.
Playing a musical instrument requires a number of skills, and that is why it is very good as a brain work-out. You may have a score in front of you, some instructions that you look at, then your eyes send those signals to your brain which then convert those messages out to your hands and fingers. Sometimes you have to coordinate between different hands and your feet (like strumming on an ukulele where LH plays the chords and RH strums the rhythm). We are using the sounds that we produce as a feedback to the brain to prepare actions for the next sound and so on. Quite a number of actions are going on at the same time.
Research with stroke patients shows you can regain hand function by playing the piano and doing these sorts of exercises. Playing the piano is an enjoyable task so people are going to do it more often and they are going to get the benefits of that exercise. The auditory feedback (when you press a key and hear the sound) helps people reduce any error in movement they may be making so that they can increase their regularity on those types of tasks.
It is common for people to think that it is easier for a child to learn a new skill and that if you haven’t done it when young you have missed the boat. Children are learning all the time and most will have a go at anything. However, there are advantages of learning when you are older. As an adult you have different levels of motivation and you have responsibility for your own learning. You can do it if you want to. Also, learning in a group with other adults has great social benefits. It is a way to spend time with other people and get enjoyment from a shared activity.”
Mr MacRitchie said her research is tapping into the idea that playing the piano or any instrument can help with dexterity later in life. “We want to encourage more people to take up a musical instrument, as much as it will help with other daily activities, it is also something that is fun to do. So why not take up that activity that you have been sitting thinking about doing for a while?”
If your outfit involves designer labels, peplums, knife-pleats, lettuce hems, vents or yokes, striped tops with the nautical look well, you are clearly just here for the weekend. In Goolwa it’s thongs, shorts, tracky dacks, old jeans, holey t-shirts, and high vis that are usually seen on the locals. It’s ready to wear, functional and comfortable casual when out and about. There are several Op Shops in Goolwa (e.g. Anglican Church in Crocker St, Bargain Barn behind The Professionals in Cadell St, and Upcycle at the Goolwa Shopping Centre). Op Shops are great places where you can save money, shop ethically, be environmentally friendly, support charities, and for those who don’t like their fashion trends to be dictated, they provide an alternative to the mainstream. One man’s junk is another man’s treasure (though not the best phrase to use when telling your child they were adopted).
On public holidays the traffic in Goolwa is like King William Street on a Monday morning, and people seem to think that different road rules apply. It means traffic jams at the roundabout. Perhaps they are using their navigation device and trying to follow the confusing “take the second exit on the left” direction? Traffic would be less chaotic if it was just “drive through the next roundabout”.
With the influx of visitors during the holidays, the supermarket shelves are soon bare and it is as if a plague of locusts has descended. I should tell you about the time my husband volunteered to do the shopping for me. I thankfully handed over my carefully prepared list. He came back with 1 packet of sugar, 2 dozen eggs, 3 jars of vegemite, 4 loaves of bread, 5 containers of laundry detergent, 6 lettuces, 7 tomatoes and 8 tins of baked beans (one of his favourite foods) It’s ok, he said, they were on special.
The river is a great place for a kayak adventure. Great for keeping fit, getting up close and personal with the wildlife, fishing, checking out the scenery. It can get a little cold in the winter months though. Reminds me of the two holiday makers who went out for a fishing expedition in their fishing kayak. They were getting cold so they decided to light a fire in their boat. Of course, it promptly sank, proving once again that you can’t have your kayak and heat it too.
No-one would disagree that the stars at night in Goolwa are amazing compared to Adelaide where the reflected city lights, or light pollution, dominates the sky. The Milky Way is amazing, and Orion (The Saucepan) is spectacular. I could tell you something funny about it, but it would be a waste of space.
There has been a lot of press recently about the New Zealand fur seals. It is estimated that seals numbers have returned to levels similar to before they were hunted by the early white settlers. They are a major issue for the local fishing industry who lose a significant proportion of their catch, their livelihood, to the seals.
Q: What did the seal say when it swam into the barrage wall?