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Club 'bridges' age gap

Members of The Bridge meet at 6 p.m. on Mondays to play Bridge in the Ferg in addition to their twice weekly Bridge sessions at Capstone Village. Photo courtesy of Thomas Lewallen

Hannah Widener

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Bridging the generation gap between students and Tuscaloosa’s retirement community is a club called The Bridge. The club began in the spring of 2013 and was founded by Thomas Lewallen, a senior majoring in computer science. Lewallen said he was looking for a way to connect students to the elderly community in a way both groups could enjoy.

“Bridge is a great game because it’s social, competitive and something you can play your whole life,” Lewallen said. “I learned to play bridge about a year prior from my extended family. My dad always told me I’d find people who knew how to play in college, except I didn’t find any people to play with. I think bridge is sort of a lost art to a lot the younger generations, so I wanted to make bridge cool again, because it is cool.”

The Bridge meets every Monday at 6 p.m. in the Ferguson Student Center and twice a month travels to Capstone Village to play with its residents. Most of the residents have been playing bridge their entire lives and some are pretty competitive. Alex Gautreaux, a junior majoring in chemical engineering and Spanish and the vice president of The Bridge, only began playing last fall.

“Bridge is really becoming a lost art, but it’s something that people of our grandparents’ age have been doing since they were really young as a form of entertainment before technology like computers and TVs really took off,” Gautreaux said. “Most college students don’t know how to play. I certainly didn’t when I joined the club, so reaching out to the retirement village residents is a way to gain experience at the game but also learn about ways of living from those who have so much wisdom.”

Gautreaux said Lewallen is their best player, but many of the residents they play against are tough competitors. One of the residents, Ms. Lynn, who plays with the group regularly, challenges them and helps the group learn.

According to bridgehands.com, the game originally began in the 1700s and derived from the Russian card game whist. George Washington was even known to put a wager on the game to make it more exciting. For Gautreaux, the game is about much more than winning, she said.

“My favorite memories are when residents tell us about their lives and their children and their grandchildren and their husbands and their jobs,” Gautreaux said. “One story I remember is one woman actually met her husband for the first time on a train. It played out just like a movie.”

Lewallen said bridge is a tough game to master, but it’s given the club a chance to give back to the community in ways they never expected.

“Service was part of the goal from the beginning,” Lewallen said. “Today’s elderly community grew up in a time much different from ours. As such, it can be difficult to relate to them sometimes, but bridge is something that can be a common factor between us, and it’s fun. Hence, the name of the club is ‘The Bridge’ to represent how the game gives us, the younger 
generation, a connection to people of an 
older generation.”

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Club 'bridges' age gap