Passing around copies of a letter/number conundrum, the classmates simultaneously squint eyebrows and mutter to each other.
“Oos,” “aahs,” “I can’ts” and “I’ve got its” ripple around the room as the proverbial penny drops.
Some are sporting a smile, while others are wearing a deepening furrowed brow.
The reading challenge is the opening salvo in the “Brain, Fitness and More” class - one of many activities in a jam-packed entertainment schedule at Gilmore Gardens retirement community.
After being afforded a few minutes to wrap their heads around the puzzle, the residents, some in the 90s, are challenged to read the mixed letter/number sentences faster.
“Let’s pick up the pace,” beckons Anne MacLennan, life enrichment manager at Gilmore Gardens.
Puzzles on paper migrate to funny looks on faces as MacLennan produces a child’s doll and a glass of water. After asking one of the residents, Audrey, to put her finger in the glass, the doll then speaks.
“The message is that water is the link to the mind,” MacLennan tells the residents, lifting up her bottle of water to toast the moment. “Cheers!”
A chorus of breathing, shaking and (seated) marching exercises is followed by some uplifting music as the foot tapping becomes more intense.
“Let’s go cross-country skiing,” says Maclennan, acknowledging that some of the residents may struggle with the co-ordination.
“Now we’re keeping both sides of the brain active. Trust me, you’ll be sharper at problem solving and reading if you do this often.”
MacLennan takes the 30-minute Brain, Fitness and More class every two weeks and usually fills the room with around 16-20 of the 125-strong residential community at Gilmore.
“It’s a case of ‘use it or lose it,’” said MacLennan referring to the need for the residents to keep their brain active in retirement.
“This is a brain gym really, full of tactile stimulation, eye to hand co-ordination, catching games, balls and slides.
“We’ve doing this for years and we do it across all our 30 properties in Canada.”
* THE eldest of five children, Charles Holden at the age of 19 had to step up to the plate when his father died suddenly in a tragic accident.
One of the voids Holden had to fill was that of his father’s role in the Freemasons - a proud fraternal organization that arose from obscure origins within the masonry trade in the late 16th to early 17th century.
Now aged 94, Holden, as part of the brain gym at his Gilmore Gardens residence, proudly shows off to fellow residents his 70-year service medal from the Masons, one of only four ever given out in B.C. and Yukon.
Holden’s recant of a tale of a rich life spent within the Masons is all part of encouraging Gilmore’s residents to engage the brain and provoke discussion.
While explaining the history of the Masons and masonry, Holden mystified the group by displaying a selection of tiny aprons and a gavel - all part of the Masonic culture across the globe and a throwback to the art of masonry.
Around the world, many regard the Masons has keeping secrets locked away inside their “lodges,” secrets that cannot be revealed to anyone outside the Masonic fraternity.
“We don’t discuss religion or politics - that’s our only secret,” smiled Holden.
Secret handshakes are another beguiling feature within the Masonic world.
“If you’re at a gathering of sorts, and you think a person is a Mason, we have a handshake to determine if it’s true,” said Holden, smiling once more.
Now a “right worshipful brother” at the Centennial King George Lodge, Holden told the group of having a “wonderful education in those (70) years.”
That “education” is a secret, added Holden.