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34 I lascrucesmagazine.com Living the Good Life Everyone's a Winner Game playing makes a comeback Written by Tiffany Etterling • Photography by Morgan McGinley Games, by definition, are fun. They invoke memories of childhood, a time when all you had to do was play. And many post-retirees are now finding that picking up a deck of cards or popping open a box of dominos not only keeps them active and socially involved, it keeps them feeling young. The City of Las Cruces recognized this nearly 40 years ago when they began offering games for senior citizens. "It is so much fun to see seniors interact with each other like they are still in high school," says Sally Schutte, manager of the city's senior centers. "When a senior belongs to a group [at the senior center] they are surrounded by others who have lived just as many years, experienced many of the same losses, and can provide comfort that sometimes family is unable to provide." Wanda Burnhaur, an 84 year old retired nurse, learned to play mahjong in July of 2014 and she has been laying down tiles every Thursday at Munson Senior Center ever since. Originally a Chinese game, mahjong is similar to rummy only played with tiles instead of cards. It involves skill, strategy, calculation, and also some degree of chance. Wanda says she enjoys the game because it provides intense mental exercise as well as camaraderie. "My friend Sylvia, who was 98 at the time, had been playing off and on for a couple of years. She got Helen and I involved," she remembers. "We'd come to my house and play two or three hours and then have lunch. It was very enjoyable." The mind is a muscle that needs exercise at any age, just like the body. Staying engaged, both mentally and socially, can do wonders for seniors looking to maintain quality of life as they enter a new stage in their lives. "Medically we can't reverse the negative effects of aging," notes Jay Robb, a licensed health care administrator and owner of Heritage Assisted Living, "but games and activities slow down the process by helping individuals be active and engaged with others. It is something to look forward to, it keeps them active, and it helps them to pass time. It also ties them to the positive parts of their past and helps them find joy in their journeys." Beyond mahjong, the city offers a slew of other opportunities for seniors to get a little competitive. Each week, Sally helps coordinate pinochle, horseshoes, hand 'n foot, chess, canasta, bridge, bingo, and billiards at the Munson Senior Center, Eastside Center, Benavidez Center, and Sage Café. Billiards is one of the most popular and, along with chess, it tends to attract more men than the other games. But age is the only requirement to be part of the fun. "We Top: Larry Gioannini smiles as Robert Kimball considers his play. Mary McMillin and Susan Michelson also analyze their strategies at the Belton Bridge Center on E. Madrid Ave. Learn more, lascrucesbridge.com Middle: Mahjong is a calculating game of skill. Call the City of Las Cruces Senior Programs for current activities and game times. 575-528-3000 Left: Wanda Burnhaur evaluating which tile to lay down. Top, right: Lucy Anderson- Rusch eyes the break she's about make. A billiards enthusiast, Lucy has won the Senior Olympic Gold medal many times over at both the county and state levels.