CHURCH HILL — After winning the district and the regional competitions, the Church Hill Senior Center’s Golden Nuggets will compete in the state-wide Senior Brain Games Competition.
The Golden Nuggets, who are now one of the top three teams in the state, will represent the entirety of East Tennessee in the Nashville competition, as they take on the Middle Tennessee’s Lawrence County Aged to Perfection and West Tennessee’s Chester County Challengers.
“The competition will be fierce as the challenging teams attempt to become champions,” reads a press release from TCAD (Tennessee Commission on Aging and Disability) who sponsors Brain Games.
The competition will take place on Oct. 24 and will be available to watch in a Facebook-live streaming video on the TCAD and Rogersville Review Facebook page.
“It’s a trivia contest with four rounds of five questions each,” said Evelyn Shrout, who is one of the three members of the Golden Nuggets. “It’s sort of like Jeopardy—we never know what the questions are going to be about. They kind of start out easy and then, the further along you go, the harder they get.”
Of the state competition, Shrout said the Golden Nuggets are “excited, yet scared.”
Prepping for the big day
The first year that Church Hill got involved in the Brain Games, they actually had two teams. Only one team from each center can take part in the official competitions, so the two had a playoff competition with the Nuggets emerging victorious.
The Golden Nuggets have been competing in the Brain Games since 2014. They have won the district four times, but this will be their first time making it to the state competition.
Shrout explained that it’s not easy to make it to the state competition.
“At the district, we competed against eight or nine senior centers from this upper end of Tennessee,” she said. “We won the district, and from there, last Thursday we went to Knoxville and won the region against one senior center from Knoxville and one from Chattanooga.”
The Golden Nuggets meet to practice together twice a week, but the majority of preparation is done individually.
“At our practice, our director reads us questions, but then we get on the internet and do it on our own too,” she said. “We read anything we can pull up on trivia. When I’m exercising on my bicycle, I’m reading trivia questions on my tablet.”
Each member of the Golden Nuggets has her own area of expertise.
Shrout is a retired Volunteer High School History teacher. During her teaching career, she actually coached the quiz bowl team, which participated in trivia competitions similar to the Brain Games. “I’m interested in history — world or American history — and Presidential trivia,” she said.
Anna Long is a retired office worker. “She’s interested in quite a few things,” Shrout said. “Her strength on our team, though, is that she knows a lot of movies, actresses, TV programs and Oscar winners.”
Vera Spradlin is a retired nurse who adds her medical expertise to the team’s pool of knowledge.
The team also has an alternate member, Carol Hunt, who steps in if another member is unable to compete. They are coached by the Church Hill Senior Center Director, Tammy Bentley.
When it came time to choose a team name, Shrout explained that they chose something that represented their ‘golden’ age.
“We thought of ‘Golden Nuggets’ because, being senior citizens and all, this is supposed to be the ‘golden age,’” she said.
The winning teamThe team who wins the state competition will receive money for their senior center, a trophy and the honor of hosting next year’s state competition.
“If Church Hill wins this year, we are coming to Church Hill in 2020 to have the Brain Games,” said Anna Cothron, who is the Aging Commission Liaison. “It’s a really good opportunity to showcase different cities across the state.”
In past years, Brain Games has actually been held in Morristown and Jonesborough.
Tennessee Commission on Aging and DisabilityTCAD introduced the Brain Games seven years ago as a way to promote brain health among senior citizens.
“We’re the state unit on aging, so we get federal and state dollars that go out to all 95 counties state-wide to provide direct services for older adults,” Cothron said. “Some examples of our programs are Meals on Wheels, and Options, which is an in-home and community-based service. We also provide money for local senior centers. Our Executive Director, Jim Shulman, came to the Commission on Aging seven years ago, and, though he loves all those programs, he suggested we do something focused on brain health.”
Cothron explained that employees suggested increased education or promoting physical fitness. Instead, Shulman suggested a trivia competition.
“At first, I thought ‘well, that’s crazy,’” Cothron said of the idea.
The first competition was in Nashville, and the program has grown each year.
“Really where the best events have happened is in the cities of the different winning senior centers,” she said.
There’s actually scientific study behind the Brain Games, too.
“There’s research that says doing trivia might not hurt,” Cothron said with a laugh. “Trivia will not protect your brain against Alzheimer’s or dementia, but it definitely won’t hurt. Something that research does say is that social connections and friendship can be beneficial. We have seen that Brain Games is a great way to foster those relationships within the senior center.”
She also explained that research suggests that lowering your risk factors through eating a healthy diet and regularly exercising can help to protect against Alzheimer’s and dementia.
For more information on TCAD, visit their website at https://www.tn.gov/aging.html.
Be sure to tune in to the Facebook livestream of the competition, which will be shared on the Rogersville Review’s Facebook page on Oct. 24 at 1p.m. Central Time and 2p.m. Eastern Time.