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How bridge can help slow down ageing in the elderly

This simple card game has some surprising benefits

Playing games such as bridge can help improve cognitive health of older adults
Playing games such as bridge can help improve cognitive health of older adults (Pixabay)

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The traffic doesn’t bother him much, as he slowly drives his car to the community. In fact, he looks forward to it. C Dishen Kumar, 73, a retired professional from BHEL, Hyderabad, has been playing bridge since his early twenties. For the past few years, he has been training many youngsters, men and women in the game of bridge. He is so passionate about the game that he doesn’t mind even travelling to other states to train youngsters in the game and prepare them to participate in competitions. He cherishes his travels, the interactions and the relationship he has with his students and co-players during these games.

“The learning curve is unending, and this simple fact adds to an exciting and highly stimulating dimension to the human mind,” says Kumar. He thinks this may well be a phenomenal sport in the years ahead, now that bridge finds a place in the Olympic Games.

As people age, they are at a higher risk of developing co-morbidities and disabilities, studies show that playing games such as bridge can help in improving cognitive health. The competitive element, challenging mental ability and socializing is found to help the elderly in lowering their risks of developing Alzheimer's and dementia by 75%. 

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The necessity of social interaction becomes crucial during the sunset years. When people meet others and are socially active, it keeps stress at bay, helps them in forming a routine and when this becomes a routine, they actually look forward to that time of spending with friends. When they interact and play such games it improves their motor skills, memory and thinking ability, improves their concentration and helps them with faster thinking, it gives them a sense of independence, which is a great way to boost their confidence.

Older people tend to become more withdrawn, isolated and tend to have feelings of loneliness and anxiousness about the future. Physical wellbeing and other age-related health issues may also be adding to the stress. It helps to keep yourself motivated and occupied with any passion project or pursuing a hobby or interest. Mind games like bridge, Scrabble, crosswords, word games and chess, play an important role in keeping the brain active and sharp. They also have the added social benefit of meeting friends and interacting with each other, which is very important to keep away loneliness and stress. 

Bridge, a card game that requires the players to be very attentive and concentrate on their opponents' bidding to win the game, sharpens the brain and keeps the grey cells active and energetic. G. Pratibha Rao, 70, a social activist from Hyderabad, finds bridge a very fascinating mind game. She plays it regularly with her friends when they meet up every week at one of their homes. Ever since the pandemic, she has been playing online bridge and misses the days of meeting her friends. “What I find fascinating about the game is that it develops several facets of the brain, logical, creative, lateral, original thinking and sharpens my memory,” says Pratibha. 

Y. Nageswara Rao, 81, a retired professional from IICT, Hyderabad, is a Bridge veteran who has been playing the game for more than 60 years, participating in and winning many national and international tournaments. He used to regularly take part in bridge tournaments within the city and even in other states till a couple of years ago, apart from being a regular player at their local club every week. 

However, since the pandemic, he is confined to his home and mostly keeps himself occupied with daily walks in the park and light exercises. He misses those days of travelling to other cities for four to five-day tournaments, sitting in a huge hall filled with four players at each table, the delicious food, the heated discussions about bidding and moves. The weekly meets at the club were his way of relaxing and unwinding with friends, the relationships he formed and friends he made and nurtured over the years are dear to him. Even today his home is filled with mementoes and prizes he won in the game. “Bridge has been on my mind most of the time, maybe because of it I have a very sharp memory, and I miss playing tournaments,” says Nageswara Rao.

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