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Riding High From Ace to King and Rolling Dice at Senior Centers

Venturing into senior centers with a backpack full of board games feels like stepping onto an Italian Western set. You know, the type where every corner harbors a character, and every game table is a showdown in miniature. It’s “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” of game afternoons, but with more loose dentures and less gunpowder.


First up, you have “The Good.” These are the players who’ve decided that, in the golden years, there’s no better way to spend time than perfecting their Gin-Go strategy or mastering the art of Kitunda. They’re friendly, willing to save you a table, get you a cup of java, chat about their grandkids, and possess a charm that makes losing to them almost enjoyable. Almost.


Playing Gin-Go board game at a senior center in the Bronx.

But then, we get to “The Bad.” Now, “bad” here doesn’t mean evil; it just means they take their competitive edge as seriously as they took their first street fight. These folks enter every game with the spirit of a gladiator, declaring their intention to “kick everyone’s butts” with a zeal that would make you believe there's a trophy (or at least some decent knitting yarn) at stake. The trash talk is intense, the stakes (imaginary as they may be) are high, and losing is not an option. I’ve learned never to underestimate their poker faces or strategic shuffles. They're the kind of people who’d cheat at solitaire to ensure they win every time. Their smile is so “full of it” that you question if they might want to go to the bathroom to relieve themselves before the game starts.


Playing Kitunda board game at a senior center in the Bronx

And finally, we come to “The Ugly.” These characters don’t quite know where they fit, but boy, do they try to carve out their niche. Picture the jokesters who test out their best (read: worst) humor material mid-game. Their loud jokes are often the ones you’ve never entirely understood, where the punchline limps along, waiting for anyone to offer a sacrificial chuckle.


It’s like being in a laugh desert; they just hope to find an oasis of a giggle. This guy once thought he’d spice up the afternoon with a “knock-knock” joke so old that it was probably the first inscribed on a stone tablet. He told it not once, not twice, but thrice, each time with a delivery that could put a toddler to sleep. It finally ended with one of us giving a pity laugh, which might have been more from sympathy for the rest of us than from any genuine amusement.


Playing Squarin' Off board at a senior center in the Bronx.

Navigating these dynamics requires the diplomatic skills of a seasoned UN negotiator. You must be quick with your own jokes, sharp with your strategy, and infinitely patient. Between the good-natured storytellers who’ve got a lifetime of tales ready to run free and the spirited competitors who play for keeps, it’s an exercise in mental agility and social grace.


After enough time, one realizes the seniors around you are still trying to connect with other people. Many of them have lost close friends from Covid or other natural and unnatural illnesses, and just to sit at a table with acquaintances or strangers playing a board game is a gift unto itself.


So, despite the occasional bad joke or the intense competitive streaks, there’s magic in these gatherings. Each game mixes laughter, strategy, and a touch of drama. It’s a space where age isn’t a barrier but a badge of honor, each move on the board a testament to years of wisdom and wit. And if you’re lucky, by the end of the day, you’ve not only managed to survive but also to win a little respect and maybe, just maybe, a game or two. So, here’s to more game days at the senior centers—where the stakes are as high as the stories, and the company is worth every minute.


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