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BEACON Senior News

How playing bridge keeps Colorado Springs seniors happy and healthy

Mar 15, 2024 01:53PM ● By Karin Hill

Like many in his generation, Bob Wagstaff grew up in a card-playing family where the game of bridge was quite familiar. He learned bridge as a youth and continued playing through graduate school.

“Then for 30 years I didn’t play, and the game completely changed,” said Wagstaff, now in his mid-70s. 

He picked up the hobby again in retirement and got involved at the Colorado Springs Bridge Center (CSBC) on the city’s west side, learned the newer “conventions” related to cards and points, and quickly found himself immersed in a fun-loving community that enjoyed the game as much as he did.

Ann Parker, 72, a longtime bridge instructor, started playing the game in her college dorm against the wishes of her mother, a bridge teacher.

“She didn’t want me playing bridge because she thought I would skip class,” Parker recalled. “But when I went home for Christmas, she decided to teach me and said, ‘Well, if you’re going to play bridge, you ought to learn how to play it right.’ And I never missed class because of bridge.”

Many other members learned the game in college, gave it up during their career years, then picked it up again in retirement.


Members say the game not only provides them opportunities for social interaction and meeting people, but its strategic nature promotes cognitive health by challenging players to enhance their skills and learn new ones. Some Medicare supplement plans even help with membership fees, Wagstaff said, similar to Silver Sneakers. 

The Bridge Center is Unit 360 of the American Contract Bridge League (ACBL) and is one of only three units in the nation to own its own building. Under Wagstaff’s leadership as president, Unit 360 covers southeastern Colorado, including Pueblo, Trinidad, Salida, La Junta and many points in between.

CSBC was constructed in the 1970s, in part due to the vision of former member Bob Wingeard, who rallied members and did much to secure land and financing for the project. 

Wingeard, who worked as a civilian at Air Defense Command/NORAD for three decades, remained a core member of the unit until he died at age 84 in November 2023. Wingeard’s friends and loved ones gathered at the center on February 13 for a celebration of life service and rededicated the newly remodeled facility in his name. 

“The Colorado Springs Bridge Center building that Bob Wingeard envisioned and masterminded in the 1970s was rededicated in his honor as a fitting memorial to his legacy,” past president Howard Donaldson, 78, said.


Members of Unit 360 have done their share of mourning and remembering these last few years. In March 2020, a female bridge player in her 80s was the first confirmed COVID-19 fatality in Colorado. She was one of eight Bridge Center members to die from the effects of the virus.

The pandemic was a blow to the usually cheerful group of players. It caused lengthy closures and a decline in membership from a pre-pandemic count of 400.

Tom Goings, 80, a member since 2005, was hospitalized for two months with COVID. 

“For a while there, we weren’t sure if he was going to make it,” Donaldson said. 

But Goings rebounded and is back running games every Tuesday and Friday. Like Wagstaff, he played bridge in college and rekindled his love for it later in life. 

“If you play cards and you have card sense, it’s pretty easy,” Goings explained. “The hardest part is learning the different systems.”

But help is available to those willing to learn. Several members, including John Dukellis, 74, teach the game to newcomers and help them advance in their skills.

Dukellis offers complimentary lessons in collaboration with the Colorado Springs Senior Center at no cost. Unit 360 sponsors other lessons for a modest fee. 

Although some players are extremely competitive, there is a seat at the table for everyone.

“It’s a very friendly club,” Goings said. 

Bonnie Bagley is one of those competitive types. The bubbly woman in her 70s grew up in a card-playing family, and her parents played bridge. The Air Force spouse got involved with bridge through Officers’ Wives Clubs and eventually learned about the Colorado Springs Bridge Center.

“People ask, ‘Do you get money?’ Well, no, we play for masterpoints,” said Bagley. “When you get a certain number of masterpoints, you move up to a new game.”


CSBC’s demographic is predominantly seniors with an average age of 76, but the group includes college students and occasionally teens who attend with parents or grandparents. One 93-year-old Vietnam veteran comes to play five days a week. 

“We need a multigenerational membership to thrive,” Wagstaff said.

“Bridge” is a fitting image to link the CSBC’s past and present. Four years after the pandemic began, Unit 360 is experiencing a resurgence and is still one of the largest units in the state. 

Membership is climbing thanks to the group’s active outreach and recruiting of members across all age groups. It’s a different era, with new blue siding brightening the front of the building and a collective goal to revitalize the center as a bustling social hub.  

You don’t need to be an ACBL member to play in games, but membership is required to participate in tournaments. Most games cost about $6. Owning its own facility allows the center to maintain these competitive rates, offering significant savings over other venues where fees often range from $10 to $15.

Located at 901 N. 17th St., the center caters to a variety of schedules with games throughout the week, including Thursday evenings and a monthly Saturday night potluck.

While some people come with bridge partners, those without can call ahead to request one. 

For more information, including a game schedule and other events, email [email protected], call 719-634-7250 or visit the Colorado Springs Bridge website.

What Is Bridge?

Bridge is a card game for four players (two partnerships).

The Basics:

  • Taking turns, say the number of tricks you think you will take and what you want the “trump” suit to be. This is called bidding, and bidding ends when everyone has passed. The last bid made is the winning bid.
  • Each person plays one card, and the highest card wins unless a card from the trump suit is played. Then the highest trump wins. This is called a trick.
  • During the trick, you must play the same suit as the first card that is played; if you have none in that suit, you can play a card from the trump suit or any other suit.
  • The winner of the trick plays the first card for the next trick.
  • If the pair that won the bidding got the number of tricks they said they would, they win the hand. If they don’t, the other pair wins the hand.

— American Contract Bridge League