Bridge, The Perfect Game for the Aging Brain

September 30, 2013

Bridge, the Game for Aging Brains 

 ReferenceNYT on Kids and Bridge,  A Place for Mom Blog on Bridge 

 Bridge anyone?  We tell you to use your brain in puzzles and intellectually challenging projects as you age.  We suggest you stay socially invested.  We want you to be active and get out of your home and see people on a regular basis.  And we want you thinking on something that always challenges you to get better. Well, Bridge it is.  Did you know that the average age of bridge players in America is somewhere in the later 60s? Did you know that there are many people in their 90s who are still playing bridge, and consider their investment in bridge as the best thing they have done for their personal health?  

Now, schools are beginning to use bridge as a means by which kids can be challenged to be social and add up all their skills into a common cause. What does this card game do for you?  Here are a few ideas.  You have to play as a team.  But you have to communicate in code and be subtle and clever in your communication as you bid to take the lead.  Then you have to count every card as it’s being played so that you can remember what needs to be played on the last trick, the trick that allows you to make your contract that you bid for. And because you can’t do all those things all the time, each round only takes 3-5 minutes and you get to laugh a lot at your failings and foibles.  

After two hours of laughing, you leave the bridge table with the delicious glow of having done something worthwhile, being with friends.  You forget that you were set three times and went down 200 points. Is it hard to learn bridge?  That’s what makes it such an ideal game.  It’s very easy to start and the rules can be read from a simple guide sheet.  You can look them up on line.   If it weren’t so easy, I would never have learned it.   What is compelling is the level to which it can become complex, if you play with the same partner and learn to communicate with all sorts of codes and “conventions” in the bidding.   

The odds of getting a good enough hand to start bidding and winning are about 50:50, so every other hand, you or your partner have something to say, and then your opponents have the same odds. And then you have purpose.  You have to get together and play.  You have the chance to go to someone else’s home and discover the sheer pleasure of friends.  You get 10 or 15 little challenges each week, and the rest of the time you can talk about your dog, your garden, your vacation, the grandkids, or the recent symphony. 

 WWW.  What Will Work For Me?   I’ve played bridge since high school when I remember rushing during recess to play a couple of hands on the library steps.  Now I have some very dear friends who put up with my rather sloppy approach, because we all end of saying, “The purpose was to laugh”.   And that it is.  Now, if you could just figure out for me when I keep getting in trouble every time my opponents have the 6 of spades.  No logical reason, but it’s only weird if it works.

Column written by Dr. John E Whitcomb, Brookfield Longevity, Brookfield, WI