Our first Chess Square One, designed for absolute beginners, children and their (grand)parents.
“I think our society would benefit in many ways if parents spent the time to teach their children chess. The bonding experience alone is amazing and the skills kids get from the game will help them in life. Plus their immediate schooling would be enhanced,” Laura Sherman, Tampa, FL, author of Chess is Child’s Play.
Chess Square One idea is this, it provides (grand)parents – even those who are not familiar with chess yet – with a simple and effective method (I developed for Kennesaw State University) for teaching their kids, plus free counseling and mentoring down the road!
This is a great way everybody spends some quality time together, family bonding and having fun. Think Family Game Night! Leave your digital devices alone for a short while and have some real good time together.
Tell your family and friends about this great (and free) opportunity to learn the basics of chess, the best game ever invented.
To promote chess and make it accessible to more people, we will be rotating places and times, covering north and northwest of metro Atlanta: Marietta, Kennesaw, Smyrna, Vinnings, Sandy Springs, Dunwoody, Roswell, Alpharetta (let me know if you may have in mind a specific place and time for organizing Chess Square One in your neighborhood!).
We want to let you know about a new group we organize in Atlanta called the Laboratory for Intergenerational Learning. These are questions members wish to ask of one another:
What style of learning would be most effective for your child, student, resident, patient or loved one?
What physical, visual, motor or cognitive impairments are important to manage?
Would a therapeutic recreational activity enhance your care setting or lifestyle in some way?
What kinds of specialized training in cognition or memory care might interest you?
Are you curious about intergenerational learning opportunities?
These are the top categories we are targeting for membership:
Alzheimer’s Disease · Parenting & Family · Mental Health Counselors · Social Gaming · Early Diagnosis Dementia · Caregivers to Seniors · Family Outdoor Recreation · Sandwich Generation · Adults Taking Care of Aging Parents · Young Onset Alzheimer’s Disease · Occupational Therapy · Holistic Health · Cognitive Behavior Therapy – CBT · Improving Memory · Autism and Asperger’s
As a sidenote, our Facebook community group, Intergenerational Learning, is worldwide, so we welcome you, your staff and volunteers to share ideas with us about social mentoring and group learning. We sincerely hope to continue building relationships together outside our region and look forward to future conversations.
The organizers are very new to the aging services community, but truly feel the wonderful game of chess can and will benefit families and groups. The game of chess is being unearthed in a new and balanced way to improve social interactions. Chess is being adapted to exploit metacognition (learning to learn) and situational analysis. As a result, family relationships may be strengthened and channels to personal growth developed. “Chess Therapy” as its been called builds on strong breakthrough energies as the power of the game becomes a gateway to understanding the natural world.
If you have a taste for intrigue, or learning about chess for the very first time (we hope you are), we encourage you to explore the game of chess through a Canadian television series released in 2011 called Endgame. Shown in the series as a set of “life lessons”, we hope you enjoy Endgame as much as we have. The game’s enduring principles have been handed down through tireless generations in search for what lies beneath the surface in so many aspects of our lives. This is a social mentoring program for creating intergenerational bonds that we feel are so important with an increasingly aging society that will soon be lost.
Through life’s journey we may reflect on and refine our decisions. Life is a game, but not one of chance. It is a struggle for balance, simplicity, interdependence and goodwill. The process of learning the game of chess even still is experimental and is really a laboratory for learning the game of life. The endgame has no end in sight. Chess offers a lifetime of opportunity to learn, enjoy and teach this truly remarkable game.
I’ve been offered a lot of encouragement from the staff at a nursing center and family members to continue to grow our community outreach. The center offers physical therapy and cares for patients who require a brief stay to recover from surgery. The center also offers long-term care for those experiencing memory, mobility or other physical challenges. Dedication and patience has been a key ingredient in working with these folks. We’ve taken a step back since publishing New Tricks in Their Final Stages last year discussing hospice care and have set some time aside to talk about some of the latest happenings with Chess Made Fun.
Family involvement is the cornerstone of what we bring to our community. Working with residents’ families has been an inspiration without the need for setting mental goals and instead letting the process of learning chess unfold on its own. Participation has increased during the last several weeks and is more consistent that ever. Although we are “ginnie pigging” our experimentation with aging communities the time has been well spent and feel we are breaking some new ground here. Our activity director at the center has even gone so far as to say that she would like to see “bingo night” slowly phased out and replaced with games like chess that are more mentally stimulating than games of chance. She is discussing this idea with members of the National Council of Certified Activity Professionals (NCCAP) during their annual convention held in Virginia Beach, VA this year.
Although games like bingo are games of chance, Chess Made Fun stands by its purpose in making any activity fun and familiar and makes prizes or even tournament play an important aspect to keep interest in the games as high as we can. Mini-games like the Pawns Game allow everyone to win almost everyday! Inter-generational play is also made possible through the involvement of local chess clubs throughout Georgia. It so happens that one of our residents is a computer specialist and tutors special needs kids. One of his students is an aspiring chess player and wants to join in the fun working with the elderly at the nursing center.
We will continue to track participation and progress with our chess program and may even publish some relevant metrics should we decide to pursue further research in the area of recreation therapy.
Getting even one chance this year to visit my family in Texas has been tough. Missing some important events earlier this year like my aunt’s funeral and my cousin’s wedding upset me quite a bit. Something wonderful happened in June however. My wife got a call from her Dad to let us know his frequent flyer miles were about to expire. It so happened that he had enough credit to purchase each of us an airline ticket to travel to our respective family’s homes in Georgia and Texas. Living in New Jersey since last fall has opened our eyes to many new things, but being away from my family since my wedding in 2010 has not been easy.
My grandmother in San Antonio was at the top of my list. I knew her health had been failing a bit at a mere 91 years of age. Little did I know after talking with her for a few days that she had had a mild stroke the year before. My aunt had sent me a photograph of her in a temporary nursing home, but I had very little knowledge of why she was there. Her ability to walk had been impaired. She was taking medication and improving every week. Her speech on the phone for several months had been noticeably less expressive and slower. I was pleasantly surprised to hear her speak again like the grandmother I’ve known for a very long time after spending this time with her a few weeks ago.
An independent woman like my grandmother continues to manage most affairs of running a household. Of course, my aunt is only a phone call away and for many years has lived no more than 80 feet away from her back door. Learning the news of my grandmother’s recovery gave me more encouragement to re-introduce to her the game of chess. She knew of the game through her father who was an avid player, but in that time chess was almost exclusively played by men of stature and perceived intellect. I explained to her that chess does offer an intellectual challenge, but can be taught to anyone and practiced.
She thought this would be okay, but in exchange for her concentration to learn something new I first had to – you guessed it – a few chores around her house.
2010 was filled with emotion coming to grips with family members in risky health situations and even survival. My wife’s mother was recovering from major back surgery, and her grandfather was holding on after being diagnosed with stage-4 lung cancer that year. Unfortunately, within a few months, Leonard passed away during the Christmas holidays, so this was a trying time for her family.
The following summer, after she had some time to grieve, we decided to take what we had learned coaching chess in after-school programs and bring it into the healthcare community on a volunteer basis. Compassionate Care Hospice had recently expanded its service offering in locations around the US to include many events and activities centered around individual patient interests. Lin Tatum, our volunteer coordinator in Atlanta, thought chess would be an excellent and fun way to engage her patients. Our first new friend who will go unnamed was 91 and quite with it! She played bingo and spoke a little. The hospice chaplain thought she would enjoy chess. The other reason is that the facility was GREAT and welcomed regular appointments with their patients. Another man we met was not be capable of playing chess on his own, however his wife really enjoyed playing and has been looking after her hubby for a long time. He had been diagnosed as a Cardiac patient. She told us, “you never know, you might get him on a good day and he could play!!!!
Another woman we met was AWESOME…She was 89 (you would never know) and resided at Freedom Point of Roswell, another great facility. Proper dress attire was required (a polo shirt and khakis). They were all about us looking NEAT. This was another good facility for us to get our foot in the door. We spoke with the Activity director about setting up a time for any of the residents to play… Finally, another woman, 84, was TERRIFIC…She loved to play Wii bowling and loves puzzles, so we knew she would be up for CHESS. She resided at Atria of Johnson Ferry which was again a great place for us to get into for other residents. Her daughter came around as she does sometimes.
Volunteering our time with Compassionate Care Hospice was a wonderful experience. We encourage you to try something new if you have already thought about doing something like this and have even included a volunteer application for their office in Atlanta, GA.
In a first of it’s kind research project called the Nun Study, a convent of nuns donated their brains to science to further the study of Alzheimer’s disease. Mentally active until death these women showed no visible signs of dementia despite brain scans with advanced chemical changes that cause Alzheimer’s.
My wife and I are very interested in becoming active participants in the fight against cognitive dysfunction and memory loss in senior communities with particular attention to stronger and lasting family bonds.
Without any formal clinical training, we decided to begin a chess initiative with young children in Atlanta in 2010 working with an International Chess Master in after-school programs. Although we have found numerous accounts of research conducted with kids to strengthen cognitive function, we are curious to learn what independent research exists in the senior community in a chess learning environment.
The Nun Study from the National Institute on Aging is what we have to date, so we would like to propose an idea. First, has your research center collected any relevant data in a clinical setting that supports the need to institute a chess learning program in the senior community? If not, would your center have a desire to do so? If so, how would the center garner willing participants to conduct a study like this?
If you see some potential here, or at least have some interest in a study on the topic of chess learning as a form of holistic therapy, feel free to contact me to discuss some possibilities. We would like to become members of the Georgia Area Therapeutic Recreation Association as a valued source for information sharing among professionals working in Georgia.