Chess program helps local seniors stay sharp

A senior plays chess in one of Carl Brecht's classes.
A senior plays chess in one of Carl Brecht’s classes.

Edmonds resident Carl Brecht has been interested in chess all his life. It helped teach and motivate him as a child. He’s also been able to teach kids and be a part of teams. Now Brecht is bringing the game to another generation.

As a certified nurse assistant, Brecht travels to a lot of different assisted living facilities in the area.

“Many of the seniors I take care of have dementia,” said Brecht.

After reading studies saying that activities that work the mind help with memory, Brecht decided to approach several of the homes he works at about a chess program for seniors.

On Wednesdays, the Edmonds Landing and Fairwinds Brighton Court assisted living locations are offering chess for seniors. Both facilities were on board with the idea when Brecht pitched it, he said.

“Chess is somewhat different because it’s not like playing cards where there’s a lot of chance,” Brecht said. Chess uses long- and short-term memory as well as reasoning skills to predict what could happen in upcoming moves.

“It really stimulates the brain,” he said. “It actually will delay the onset of Alzheimer’s and also as reduce the severity of it.”

Other assisted living homes will have residents do crossword puzzles or other activities that help strengthen the mind, said Brecht.

In the three weeks that the program has been offered, it has attracted both participants who are new to chess and those who are getting back into the game.

Brecht has even noticed his mind improving as he plays more chess. It helps at all ages, he said. He’s also noticed that the weekly chess games have given the seniors a chance to be more social.

“Chess seems to bring up a lot of good memories for them,” Brecht said. “Some of them may have played in elementary school or in high school with their friends.”

Now that the chess games are organized, it makes it easier for those who want to play to find partners, he said, making the game a lot more accessible to other people.

Brecht says he’s already seen a change in some of the residents’ mental abilities after playing for the few short weeks the program has been available.

“The ability to reasons and look moves ahead has actually improved already with a couple people,” he said.

Brecht holds games at Fairwinds Brighton Court on Wednesdays from 2-3 p.m. and at Edmonds Landing on Wednesdays from 3:30-4:30 p.m. The chess games at Fairwinds Brighton Court are open to seniors outside of the living facility. Contact Brecht at 425-368-8246 or email if you’re interested in participating.

— Story by Lily Jaquith




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