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Features for Senior Citizens

Alzheimer’s Foundation Offers a $2,500 Prize, Mind Exercise in Puzzle Contest

Experts and novices can test mental fitness with crossword by renowned puzzle master in Brain Game Challenge

Aug. 4, 2012 - It’s time to sharpen your “pencils” – and mental skills – because the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA) is hosting its 2nd annual National Brain Game Challenge, an online game of skill in which contestants will have 24 hours starting September 30 to solve a puzzle crafted by one of the nation’s most respected puzzle masters, Merl Reagle. Those who do it best in two categories will win $2,500. There is, however, a $25 entry fee.

Designed for anyone from novices to experts, the contest spreads the message about the importance of doing mental activities, a critical component to successful aging. It is part of AFA’s ongoing efforts to raise awareness of Alzheimer’s disease and lifestyle choices that promote brain health.


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Reagle, whose popular Sunday crossword puzzle is syndicated in 45 newspapers across the country, has for the second consecutive year teamed up with AFA and created a challenging and creative “Sunday-size” puzzle for the National Brain Game Challenge.

Open to all individuals aged 18 and older, the competition this year divides players into two categories: “professionals” and “the public.” The “pros” are people who have ever won $200 or more in one or more crossword puzzle tournaments or have earned $200 or more creating crosswords for professional venues, such as newspapers. The “public” are those who have received less than $200 in lifetime crossword-related cash winnings or from creating crosswords for professional venues.

A grand prize of $2,500 will be awarded in each category, based on speed and accuracy. Other prizes will also be awarded in both categories. Participants will have online access to the puzzle on September 30, 2012 at 3 p.m. (ET) on a players-only Web page, and will have 24 hours to electronically submit their solutions to AFA.

Registration required; open now

Registration, for a $25 fee, is currently open at AFA will announce the winners on October 3. Proceeds from the registration fees will support AFA’s mission to provide optimal care to individuals with Alzheimer’s disease and their families through its programs and services nationwide.

Research suggests that regularly engaging in activities that stimulate the brain such as doing crossword puzzles, playing chess or reading may help improve memory and enhance motor skills, and reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, a progressive disorder that attacks the brain cells and results in loss of memory, thinking and language skills, and behavioral changes.

“One way to exercise the brain is to do specialized puzzles requiring a higher-than-normal amount of concentration, sort of like a jogger running a sprint every so often. The National Brain Game Challenge is a chance to put all of that stored-up word-game knowledge to the test—with the clock ticking—and all for a great cause,” said Reagle.

Reagle and his wife, Marie Haley, of Tampa, FL have a personal interest in the cause, having been caregivers for “1,000 days” for Marie’s mother, who had Alzheimer’s disease.

While keeping mum on more specifics, Reagle revealed that the crossword puzzle will contain a series of hidden clues and may involve anagrams, puns, palindromes and similar sorts of wordplay. Solving the puzzle’s final answer will also reveal the e-mail address to which contestants must send in their solutions.

“About half the clues will be tricky in some special way and half will be normal, and by normal I mean mostly medium-hard –after all, it is a contest. Regular ‘crossword knowledge’ is necessary, but nothing especially arcane,” said Reagle, who co-starred in the hit documentary “Wordplay” and has been a character, playing himself, on “The Simpsons.”

Last year, Jeffrey Harris of Norwalk, CT, a 26-year old crossword tournament champ, took home the grand prize after mastering the competition in just 43 minutes. In the inaugural event, the public and professionals competed together and certain puzzle experts were barred from entering; this year, because of the two-category system, everyone can play.

Eric J. Hall, AFA’s president and CEO, is encouraging adults of all ages, especially the rising number of baby boomers turning 65, to get involved in activities like this that can boost brain power.

“Giving your brain a workout, just like giving every other muscle in your body a workout, is critical for brain health,” Hall said. “With no cure on the horizon for this heartbreaking disease, it’s up to everyone to take matters into their own hands and be proactive about lifestyle choices.”

Complementing the online National Brain Game Challenge, various AFA member organizations host on-site Brain Game Challenge fundraising and educational events in their communities throughout the year that include visual puzzles, math challenges and memory games.

In addition, thousands of sites nationwide will offer free, confidential memory screenings and educational materials about successful aging during AFA’s National Memory Screening Day on November 13.

Currently, as many as 5.1 million Americas have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. With advanced age the biggest risk factor, its incidence is rising in line with the nation’s aging population.

Alzheimer's Foundations statement of purpose:

"The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America, based in New York, is a national nonprofit organization that unites more than 1,600 member organizations nationwide with the goal of providing optimal care and services to individuals confronting dementia, and to their caregivers and families. Its services include counseling and referrals by licensed social workers via a toll-free hot line, e-mail, Skype, and live chat; educational materials; a free quarterly magazine for caregivers; and professional training. For more information about AFA, call toll-free 866-232-8484 or visit"

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