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Keeping Mind & Body Engaged

General Interest

The Russley Village Ashley Care Suites introduced poi exercises as part of their physiotherapy programme to explore rhythmic body movements to stimulate and engage residents physically and mentally. The programme has been a huge success.

The inspiration for this initiative stemmed from recent research by Dr. Kate Riegle van Wests PhD, on the health benefits of poi at the University of Auckland, where she conducted the first study to scientifically investigate the effects of poi on physical and cognitive function. In addition to the scientifically proven health benefits, poi has a myriad of qualities that make it an excellent tool for keeping the mind and body engaged.

Since incorporating the poi exercises in the weekly Ashley Suites activity programme in January, the clinical team has observed a significant improvement in the balance, grip strength and attention of residents who are participating. These results support Dr. Kate Riegle van Wests study findings.

“The inclusion of the weekly poi exercise programme has had such a positive impact on resident wellbeing and we are also seeing a reduction in the number of resident falls. The response has been overwhelmingly positive.” - Dennis Demanawa, Ashley Suites Health Services Manager.

The Russley Village have over the last month engaged Shayle Tiori, who has been teaching and professionally performing poi for many years in Christchurch and even sang alongside Dame Kiri Te Kanawa. Shayle joined the Ashley Suites team to teach the traditional poi movements to the residents and team. By incorporating beautiful waiata [traditional song] and other cultural knowledge to the poi programme, the sessions have become much more than great physical exercise. “It is truly the highlight of the week for our residents and team. In addition to the great health benefits, the wellbeing aspect is truly tangible. Even the families join in or enjoy watching their loved ones taking part.” says Dennis. 

‘Poi’ is the Maori word for “ball on a cord”. Poi is a very important part of New Zealand culture and is considered a precious Māori taonga (treasure). Poi were traditionally used to sharpen reflexes, improve co-ordination, and to increase flexibility and strength in hands and arms, and is one of the key elements in kapa haka (Māori performing arts).

More recently, poi has also become a staple within the flow arts and movement worlds. This style of poi encompasses that same ‘ball on string’ design as traditional poi but is manipulated differently.


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