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Pine Run Retirement Community bridge clubs adapt after being thrown a pandemic wildcard

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Pine Run Retirement Community’s bridge clubs are more than just a place to play bridge.

From an official American Contract Bridge League game to social bridge meetings at a friend’s cottage, these gatherings are a community of people playing, learning, and forming lifelong friendships and partnerships.

When the novel coronavirus pandemic dealt Pine Run’s bridge players and the world a wildcard, players adapted by transitioning to play bridge online.

Pine Run Villager Jane Ball started a Bridge Club at Pine Run in 2011. Members come from Pine Run and the community at large. Officially sanctioned through the American Contract Bridge League, the group plays duplicate bridge on Monday nights at the Community Center.

Like many members, Ball has been playing bridge on and off for many years but never expected the abrupt cancellation of their in-person meetings.

As Pine Run Retirement Community in Doylestown took steps in March to keep its vulnerable residents safe during the pandemic, most in-person activities were put on hold. The bridge players had to get creative and find another way to continue to play together.

They took the bridge club online to a platform called Bridge Base Online, where anyone can play for free. To play in tournaments members do have to pay through an online account. The website for the officially sanctioned bridge club is bridgewebs.com/newhope.

Online bridge has been a huge success. “Last month alone $2 million were paid to the club managers who run the online game,” said Ball. “More and more people and clubs are logging on.”

Players and clubs alike have been impressed with how quickly Bridge Base Online was able to accommodate the surge in participants and how well players have transitioned to the online platform.

As members of the Pine Run Bridge Club have begun playing online, a shift for many, some players are not yet comfortable with the transition. Ball has been helping some members over the phone, walking them through the registration process and becoming familiar with the software. Pine Run’s online Bridge Club is by invitation only, but people can e-mail begnbridge@gmail.com and ask to join the group.

On Thursday nights, Ball boots up her computer to lead an online game. She appreciates the benefits of playing online. “I don’t have to drive in the dark, worry about deer, or get dressed. I can just sit down in my PJs and play.”

Ball is grateful for the online bridge community, as she does not anticipate going back to in-person club meetings in the next few months. Playing bridge presents unique challenges for social distancing, with four people per table, everyone touching the boards (containing the cards) and then the cards, and with duplicate bridge teams rotating tables.

Pine Run’s leadership will begin working with groups and clubs over the coming months to evaluate safety measures and procedures to ensure the health and welfare of all participants. So, for now, the future of in-person bridge is on hold.

The feeling in the bridge community is that online bridge will continue after the pandemic is over. Ball is looking for creative ways to teach new Bridge Club members and anyone who is interested. She is evaluating teaching via Zoom for people looking to learn while physical distancing.

Ball is hopeful that in-person lessons for both beginner and intermediate players will start in September at The Community School of New Hope-Solebury, since classes planned for April were canceled due to the pandemic.

While the social aspects of Bridge Club have changed, many players are enjoying playing with new partners, connecting with people in the community, and catching up with other bridge players during the game, in the chat rooms and beyond. Ball said that just today, she was chatting on the phone with a Bridge Club player “catching up on all of the stuff we are not doing.”

While the pandemic has brought many restrictions and negatives, discovering online bridge has been a good thing for many people and is likely here to stay.

Call 800-992-8992 to learn more about independent living, personal care, or skilled nursing and rehabilitation programs or visit pinerun.org.

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