Health and wellbeing

Funding level: Up to £1,000


Our aim is to help people affected by dementia and Alzheimer’s, enjoy a fun and stimulating activity, benefit from the support of others in the same situation, and stay active in their communities.

To do this the beneficiaries would be taught chess over 12 weeks in a tried and tested structured manner.

Once they finish the programme the "players" will continue to be supported with additional sessions. As soon as the project is up and running and we can demonstrate its success we would then approach the local Age related and Health organisations with a view to making this sustainable in the future.

Our rationale is that chess and other mentally challenging activities may help prevent Alzheimer's disease as several studies have claimed.

One report which appeared in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found elderly people who regularly read or play mentally challenging games are 2 ½ times less likely to have the debilitating illness.

The study's main author, Dr. Robert Freidland, claims people who don't exercise their grey matter stand a chance of losing brain power.

Chess is in fact a particularly good brain builder! It is a fairly easy game to learn. It takes a little practice but you can play it very quickly and the possibilities of play are endless. Playing games like chess can stimulate our minds, increase our social interactions with others and possibly reduce stress, but when it comes to reducing risk of Alzheimer’s, the type, variety and frequency of the games we play is key.

I suggest that based on my long experience and observations, that any game that is challenging and stimulating will be beneficial to an older adult. Mind sports lends itself to a variety of complexities from various patterns to calculations that stimulate players' brains.

A “mind sport” doesn’t leave the game outcome to dice or chance or bluff. Although those games are fun and recreational – they do not confer to an individual the same lasting values as a mind sport.

Chess seems like a treatment that works. In fact, people over the age of 75 that partake in leisure activities that stimulate the brain were less likely to develop signs of dementia. Research shows that chess affects specific areas of the brain and the stimulation will shift with the problems that a chess player faces during the game.

We all know that games can be fun and challenging, but if we are interested in actually maintaining brain fitness, then mind sports stimulate all six cognitive areas of the brain at the same time and are the most beneficial.

Those six cognitive areas:

• Short-term memory, used when we remember information shortly after it’s been understood.

• Long-term memory, used when we recall something from the vast store of information that’s in our brain.

• Language, the use and form of words.

• Calculation has two definitions. First, calculation is the use of numbers. The other form of calculation involves assessing the risks, possibilities or effects of a course of action. Playing chess is another way to exercise calculation skills.

• Visual-spatial, referring to our visual perception of objects.

• Critical thinking, our ability to analyse and evaluate situations.

Chess touches every one of those areas.

In addition, the recreational values include engaging with other people not just in a game but socially will make for a memorable experience and a better life in the future -- one that the people involved will want to repeat.

Ashton Community Chess Club

We feel that this project will add to the well being of local residents in an unprecedented way. Some of the children who have played at the club are now adults and they would work with the beneficiaries as volunteers.

Location: Tameside District, United Kingdom