Lookout Mountain, Chattanooga

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Bingo Bonnie loves her groupies

After my dad passed away several years ago, I decided to do something useful for the elderly. But what? I thought about reading to them or keeping them company but finally decided that what they needed most was just plain fun. Now, granted, when I say the word Bingo, most of you don’t jump up and down with joy. But these folks don’t have a whole lot of visitors, and their faces light up when I enter the Morningside Assisted Living Center. Sometimes known as Bingo Bonnie, I’m greeted enthusiastically with “Hello, hello! We’ve been waiting!”

When I first started calling Bingo more than two years ago, I quickly realized the need to shout. Some residents hear clearly with or without the help of hearing aids but others not so much. Politics was a hot topic back then, so when Myra, one of the hearing unimpaired, said to me, “I’m so sick of hearing about Sarah Palin,” I said, “Me, too.” You gotta love the response. “B2? Did she say B2?” The chorus rang for a full minute before I successfully straightened them out.

Most of the residents applauded when I bought a megaphone although a few of the hearing unimpaired grumbled; for the most part, though, in caring for each other, they understood the need. The center finally just set me up with a microphone and moved me to a larger room so more residents could attend.

On rare occasions, I’ve had to tell them to play nice. Someone’s made a bit too much noise and caused someone else to lose her train of thought; someone else sat in Dick’s usual spot. My favorite comment happened in the hall on the way out the door. Another resident had warned me about this lady’s sharp tongue. I smiled and said, “Helen, I haven’t seen you for such a long time!” Her comment broke me up: “Let’s keep it that way."

I call multiple games with lots of opportunity to win amid good-natured accusations of cheating floating through the air. The winners crow with delight at their little pile of fake money with which to "buy" oddities at the monthly Bingo store.

Once a week may not seem like much to you, but it's often enough to promote some welcomed camaraderie. My visits evoke stories: the broken arm resulting from leading an exercise session, the head-to-toe bruises from using a walker to reach an out-of-reach object, the ecstatic resident returning home to live out her days, and the strangest of all, an 80-year-old couple separating because they couldn’t stand each other anymore.

I hug them, call them by name, and tease them; getting more involved would only break my heart.

When someone yells--as much as a trembling voice can yell--"Bingo!" for the final time, the room buzzes. Congratulations and good-natured grumbling--"I only needed one more number"--rumble around the room.

"See you next Monday!” elicits a chorus of thanks, and I leave with a smile on my face.

Everyone loves to be loved.


  1. Playing BINGO at a nursing/assisted home is one of my most favorite community activities. Honestly, it's a shame I don't do it more. I'm sure taking a baby could only cause more delight. Thanks for bringing this joy back to mind. Maybe I need to act upon my desires to do it. I'm so glad you are doing it. Isn't it even more a blessing to us than it is to the residents?

  2. It's a lot of fun, Traci, for sure!