Socializing through games and movement improves health


By Sue Cody

Did you know that socializing and playing games can keep you healthier longer?

In the comfortable lobby of the Astoria Senior Center a few people are relaxing and talking. About 20 bridge players are in another room gearing up for an afternoon of cards. In the cafeteria, another 18 people gather to play pinochle.

Similar to the Bob Chisholm Center in Seaside, activities abound for residents to get out and do something. Whether it is line dancing, music, yoga, exercise classes, free movies, cards, board games, education or a musical jam session, there are ways to engage and meet like-minded people.

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The Astoria Senior Center is a great place to socialize, says Larry Miller, the center’s director. The new space is designed for many activities that don’t interfere with each other, such as playing pool, using computers or eating lunch.

“Everybody enjoys it,” Miller says. “It is welcoming and friendly, and you can get lots of snacks and coffee. The coffee’s always on.”

The benefits of playing games

“Researchers have discovered that mentally challenging games such as bridge are well suited for older people because the games offer intellectual and social stimulation on a routine basis,” AARP reports. “A study in 2000 at the University of California, Berkeley, found strong evidence that an area in the brain used in playing bridge stimulates the immune system.”

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Paul Buckman of Astoria, says he was mourning after his wife died. He tried group counseling, then took some bridge lessons. He found bridge was much more helpful than counseling.

“You sit down at the bridge table and everything else just melts away,” says Sue Kroning a Seaside bridge instructor.

Buckman says, “It’s a fascinating game. It keeps me away from TV and napping on the couch.”

He now assists Kroning, setting up tables for lessons and bridge games at the Bob Chisholm Community Center.

Kroning says the main benefit of playing bridge is the social aspect. You can interact with friends.

“I don’t like to call it a club, because it sounds exclusive, and it’s not,” says Kroning. “Membership is loose. You don’t have to belong to a bridge club…anybody can come and play.

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“For people new to the area, it has wonderful benefits like meeting people and forming a social circle.”

“I feel like I can go anywhere and find a bridge game and meet new friends,” she says. Playing in a bridge tournament in Seattle, Kroning recognized an accent from where she grew up in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). When hearing the woman’s name, she realized the woman was in her class in grade school.

Even though many players on the coast are older, young people are doing really well at bridge, Kroning says, pointing to an American Contract Bridge League publication. The Player of the Year is a 28-year-old from Denmark.

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There are bridge games nearly every day in Seaside, Astoria or Long Beach, Washington. Lessons are available for people who want to learn the game or improve their skills. For information on lessons and games see: or call Sue Kroning at 503-738-7817.

Other activities keep the brain active and offer social interactions, such as pinochle, bingo and board games. All are available in Seaside and Astoria.

Movement for the body

Jennifer Soprano teaches a number of classes at the Bob Chisholm Community Center including tai chi and exercises for balance and strength.

“I see amazing changes,” Soprano says about those participating in exercise classes. A husband and wife came in about a month ago and she saw significant improvement.

“It’s not about being perfect. It’s about giving your body some attention and movement.” She has seen people become more confident, socializing more and improving their mood.

“People are excited for tai chi. They are here because they want to be.”

People of all abilities and range of motion participate. Adult foster care visitors, come once a week and interact with other adults. Everyone loves it when they come, Soprano says. “Everybody accepts each other.”

The focus of all the classes is to make everyone feel included, says Soprano. The community center is a place to start, make friends and find that you belong somewhere.

The Astoria Senior Center helps get people out and socialize, says Miller. “Many elderly people sit at home with nothing to do. They get bored. They might drop in here or accompany a friend and realize it is a great place to socialize.

The Way to Wellville and its sponsor, Columbia Pacific Coordinated Care Organization, support healthy activities and encourage seniors to check out their opportunities.

Find activities for seniors:

Bob Chisholm Community Center, Seaside:

Astoria Senior Center: