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Aging Well: Bridge builds brain benefits

Playing bridge regularly is a powerful way to boost cognitive health and even physical health — as well as socialize.

This biweekly column is sponsored by The Mather in Tysons, Virginia, a forward-thinking Life Plan Community for those 62 and better.

Whether you engage in a weekly game of bridge with friends, or compete in tournaments to earn masterpoints, playing the game pays off “in spades” when it comes to maintaining and even improving cognitive health.

“It’s a great way to maintain memory processing skills, as well as challenging your basic logic skills. It’s a lot of fun!” says Eleanor Linde, who regularly plays five time a week. Eleanor lives in McLean and is looking forward to moving to The Mather, a Life Plan Community that is coming to Tysons in 2024. “Bridge is a wonderful way to connect with people” says Eleanor. “I’m delighted that a group of future Mather neighbors has already met once.”

Van and Fran Hitch are also avid bridge players who are moving to The Mather. When Fran retired, the couple decided to take bridge lessons together, and got hooked. “I thought this was just a game I was learning,” said Van. “But I quickly found out it involves a great deal of strategy and communication with your partner.”

Research shows that those who play bridge regularly can reap a handful of valuable health benefits, regardless of their skill level.

A Brain Workout

It’s been proven that regularly playing cards and board games helps us retain mental acuity in later life, improves performance on cognitive tests and even protects against the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

Bridge in particular is a rigorous mental workout, requiring concentration, problem solving and multitasking (including, but not limited to, memorizing cards played and continually analyzing mathematical odds while noting verbal and non-verbal clues from other players).

“I’ve read that playing bridge is one of just a handful of pastimes that can increase your brain power — and we definitely are challenged,” says Fran. “We both like to work out and keep our bodies in shape. Bridge does that for our brains.”

A Social Exercise

Of course, regular bridge players reap the benefits of social interaction, which is also good for brain health, as well as mood.

“The social part is just as important to us as playing the game,” says Fran. “Starting with our very first lessons, we’ve met some really nice people. Some have become very close friends.”

A Boost for the Immune System

One study found strong evidence that playing bridge protects physical health, because it stimulates the area in the brain responsible for the immune system.

“Bridge is good for you. We look forward to playing with our future neighbors at The Mather,” says Fran.

The Mather, projected to open in Tysons, VA, in 2024 for those 62 and better, is a forward-thinking Life Plan Community that defies expectations of what senior living is supposed to be.