Pearl River-based Rockland Bridge Center will join hundreds of bridge clubs across the country to raise money by playing in a daylong bridge game, allowing players to honor friends and loved ones affected by Alzheimer’s Disease, while also keeping their own mental skills sharp. For the third consecutive year, the American Contract Bridge League, the sanctioning body for the game of bridge, is teaming up with the Alzheimer’s Association to raise money for Alzheimer’s research in one of the group’s signature fundraising events – The Longest Day.
Held on the summer solstice – June 21, The Longest Day symbolizes the challenging journey of those living with Alzheimer’s disease and their caregivers. The local club’s team for the event, “Rockland Bridge,” will support the cause by playing bridge from sunrise to sunset and offering free lessons to the public. The cause is important to team captain Rosalind Abel, who supports and cares for someone with Alzheimer’s. She has set a goal to raise $1,600. With an average age of 69, ACBL’s members – most of whom play regularly at local bridge clubs – are significantly affected by Alzheimer’s disease. The Longest Day is an opportunity for bridge players to join the fight against the disease while receiving the mental and social healthy aging benefits the game of bridge offers.
“Studies have shown strong links between cognitive training and social activity – two of bridge’s chief benefits – and improved brain health,” said Robert Hartman, CEO of the ACBL. “The game alone challenges and stimulates mental acuity, but there’s also a strong social aspect that can aid with successful aging.”
A 2014 study by the Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center found that, by playing card and board games, such as bridge, older people can better retain their mental sharpness. “In our study, we found that individuals who participated more frequently in activities such as card games, checkers and crossword puzzles have increased brain volume in areas that support memory and affect the development of Alzheimer’s disease,” said Dr. Ozioma Okonkwo, assistant professor of medicine in the University of Wisconsin–Madison and co-leader of the Neuropsychology Service at the Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center.
In the past two years, more than 160 bridge clubs have raised more than $1 million for the Alzheimer’s Association, providing much needed funds for the care, support and research efforts it leads. This year, the ACBL is setting its sights on raising more than $600,000, and it plans to increase that amount incrementally each year as more bridge clubs participate in the effort. “Support from our partners like ACBL helps the Alzheimer’s Association spread awareness of the disease while providing the much needed resources to further our mission,” said Donna McCullough, vice president of mass market development for the Alzheimer’s Association. “Bridge players are great ambassadors for our cause as many have a personal connection to the disease.”