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Bridge is both a challenging game and a thinking person’s game. And it can potentially help individuals retain and improve their cognitive abilities. Which is why on June 21 — the longest day of the year — Newtown Bridge Club will put its cards on the table to help trump Alzheimer’s disease. It is part of a concerted effort by the American Contract Bridge League (ACBL).
“Playing bridge helps keep our minds clear and sharp,” says Carole Chiang, 85, who plays with the local club regularly with her husband, CW Chiang, who turns 92 this month.
The Chiangs are Newtown residents. Originally from China, they came to the United States in 1956.
CW, after getting his PhD from the University of Wisconsin, was the head of the department of mechanical engineering at South Dakota School of Mines & Technology. Mrs Chiang has a master’s in journalism from Marquette University.
“At our age, we are forgetting things,” Mrs Chiang says, “but we are trying our best. And bridge helps.”
A study supports her view.
Recent research, published in the journal JAMA Neurology, by the Mayo Clinic has indicated that bridge is an activity that can help avoid mental decline. Other such activities include computer use, socializing, and crafting, and even applies to seniors with a gene variation linked with Alzheimer’s disease.
The mental decline that sometimes precedes dementia was less common among those who engaged in mind-stimulating activities that every senior has access to. The researchers noted that the statistical link they found with reduced risk does not prove that bridge and the other activities were responsible.
But, said Heather Snyder of the Alzheimer’s Association, the results support the idea that “being engaged mentally is good for brain health.”
Bridge was one of five basic activities thought to help keep the mind sharp that were tested and all but reading books helped avoid mild cognitive impairment. Almost 2,000 adults age 70 to 93, without any memory problems, from Minnesota’s Olmsted County where the Mayo Clinic is located, participated. They were tested at the onset of the study, and every 15 months for about four years.
During that time, 456 study participants developed a mild mental impairment. The study found participants who engaged in bridge or the other common activities (except reading) at least once weekly were 20 percent to 30 percent less likely to develop the condition over the four years than those who never did those activities.
Thus, on Wednesday, June 21, Newtown Bridge Club will be participating in ACBL’s Longest Day event, supporting the fight against Alzheimer’s disease with its card game specialty. In addition to the club’s morning game, there will be two later games, so players can play all day with complimentary food in between. All proceeds from the day’s event will go to the Alzheimer’s Association.
Breakfast bagels at 8:30 am will be followed by a free bridge lesson from 9 to 9:30 am. The morning game, from 10 am to 1 pm, will have both an Open duplicate section and a Social Bridge game for non-duplicate players.
Players will enjoy lunch and then fun in the afternoon, from 2 to 5 pm, with a Pro-Am duplicate game, where each pro (Life Master) will be randomly paired up with an amateur (non-Life Master).
After dinner, the evening duplicate game, from 6 to 9 pm, will have both an Open section and a game for newer players. Bridge players in the community are invited to come with or without partners and play one, two or all three games.
“This is one day,” said Newtown Bridge Club Manager Susan Fronapfel, “when taking tricks is not nearly as important as taking a stand against Alzheimer’s.”
Game fees are $10 ($8 for Newtown Bridge Club members). Additional donations to the Alzheimer’s Association will be appreciated. Anyone bringing in $100 in donations will play free at all three games.
For more information, visit newtownbridge.org or call 203-733-8525.
Newtown Bridge Club, the second largest bridge club in Connecticut, holds five ACBL-sanctioned duplicate bridge games each week at Edmond Town Hall: 12:30 pm Mondays, 10 am and 7 pm Tuesdays, 10 am Wednesdays, and 12:30 pm Thursdays; and a monthly Sunday Swiss team game. Bridge lessons are scheduled at various times. Contact Ms Fronapfel or visit the club’s website for additional information.