Aug 8, 2011

Alzheimer's Foundation of America to Host Online Puzzle Competition

Alzheimer's Reading Room

The Alzheimer's Foundation of America (AFA) is calling on crossword buffs, novices up for a challenge and others in between to participate in its inaugural National Brain Game Challenge, an online game of skill created by one of the nation's most admired puzzle masters.

For the National Brain Game Challenge, Merl Reagle, whose popular Sunday crossword is syndicated in 50 newspapers across the country, has crafted a series of challenging, fresh-themed puzzles that lead to a single solution.

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Players pay a $25 registration fee, which will give them online access to the puzzles on September 25 at exactly 3 p.m. ET. The contest ends September 27, and AFA will announce the winners the following day.

Up for grabs: a $5,000 grand prize and other prizes. To register and for more information, visit

The educational and fundraising event is aimed at boosting awareness of lifestyle choices that promote brain health; alerting the public about AFA as a resource for support services and information about memory concerns, successful aging and caregiving; and raising funds for AFA's programs and services nationwide.

It stems from research that suggests that regular mental workouts may help reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease—an incurable brain disorder that is increasing in incidence nationwide and primarily affects the older population.
"The human brain thrives within an enriched environment filled with novel and complex stimuli. Mental stimulation in the form of crossword puzzles, language development, travel, visits to the museum, etc. has been found to enhance the health of the brain through the development of 'brain reserve,'" said Paul Nussbaum, Ph.D., chairman of AFA's Prevention Advisory Board and a brain health expert whose latest book is entitled "Save Your Brain."
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.

"Alzheimer's disease is devastating to the people who have it, but it's especially tough on family caregivers, who are perennially overworked and underfunded. After seeing its impact close up, I've always wanted to do my share to benefit the cause directly, and I thank AFA for giving me that chance," said Reagle, who co-starred in the hit documentary "Wordplay" and has been a character, playing himself, on "The Simpsons."

Registration for the National Brain Game Challenge began August 7, which coincides with the birthday of Marie's mother.

Eric J. Hall, AFA's president and CEO, said this event highlights "the increasing reality of Alzheimer's disease and the importance of adapting healthy lifestyles that may mitigate its wrath." "With the National Brain Game Challenge, we hope to replace fear with fun, and send the message that it's never too early or too late to embrace brain health," he said.

Under the rules of the National Brain Game Challenge, players must electronically submit their solutions to each puzzle plus a final answer to AFA. AFA will determine the grand prize winner, runners-up and additional winners based on accuracy and speed.

Besides the $5,000 grand prize, AFA will award a $1,000 second prize; $500 third prize, and more than a dozen $100 prizes to a specific sequence of winners, including the 5,000th person with the correct response.

The contest is open to individuals aged 18 and older, except any finalist or winner in the A and B Division playoffs of the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament and/or any person who ever constructed a playoff puzzle for the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, as well as AFA employees and their immediate families.

Complementing this online challenge, in a pilot program initiated by AFA, various AFA member organizations around the country will be hosting their own Brain Game Challenge events in their communities from September 10 to 24. In general, each local event will involve visual puzzles, math challenges and memory games that can be played by participants of all ages, abilities and interests simultaneously.

Currently, Alzheimer's disease, which results in loss of memory and other intellectual functions, affects as many as 5.1 million Americans and is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. Advanced age is the greatest known risk factor.

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-AFA-8484 or visit For specific information about successful aging, visit

SOURCE Alzheimer's Foundation of America

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Original content Bob DeMarco, the Alzheimer's Reading Room