Broadview Heights seniors participate in first-ever regional ‘brain Olympics’

by Charles Cassady

Millions of eyes were on TV’s “Jeopardy” this spring. At the same time, another variation on the quiz-show idea was happening at senior centers in and around Broadview Heights: the Northeast Ohio Mind Challenge.

“This was the first year the program was made available,” said Broadview Heights Human Services Center Director Amy Washabaugh.

But in the words of a Daily Double answer, “What is the Northeast Ohio Mind Challenge?”

There’s a story behind that question, and it begins with Art Greenberg and Phil Levine. After more than 50 years in local radio, including sales/marketing duties at WMMS-FM and Summit County’s Rubber City Radio group, the pair had recently retired.

“I was thinking, ‘What should I do?’” said Greenberg, of Reminderville. “And I went to Solon, [where] I work out at the Solon Recreation Center every day.”

There, in conversation with the recreation center director, inspiration struck him for a trivia contest that would energize seniors and get them together, not only in Solon, but in surrounding communities.

“One of the things that she mentioned was a ‘brain Olympics;’ that’s what she called it,” Greenberg said.

Greenberg has ties to various towns, potential sponsors and media. He engaged Levine as a partner in the project, and “we put this business plan together. It’s exciting, with the success we ended up having. … The wind-up is we hit a home run and won the Super Bowl.”

Held in various venues throughout the winter and spring, the first-ever Northeast Ohio Mind Challenge brought together competitors from 16 senior centers, among them Brecksville, Broadview Heights, Mentor, Rocky River, Chagrin Falls, Westlake, Highland Heights and Lakewood. Rounds were held in bracket elimination tournaments from February to May.

“Broadview Heights had a team of six, and they made it to the ‘Elected 8’ round,” said Washabaugh. “And Rocky River knocked us out.”

Greenberg and Levine commissioned questions from Lana Oriani of Columbus-based Get Lucky Trivia, a specialist in trivia-night contests held in pubs and restaurants throughout the region. Topics ran the gamut, from popular music to anagrams to automobiles to history. Sponsors came on board to offer a variety of cash prizes and gifts to contestants.

“We wanted to do a couple of things,” said Greenberg. “Develop the mind and use the mind, that’s the key thing with seniors. If you don’t do something with the mind, it goes.

“… The other thing is socialization. The people would come out and participate and meet with other people. … You look at the activities they have at the [Human Services] Center. They have yoga, Pilates, bingo; this is another activity.”

Greenberg gave high scores to Washabaugh for getting Broadview Heights on board for the initial round.

“We wanted Broadview to go further, but they got knocked out,” he said.

Washabaugh agreed with Greenberg about the virtues of the game.

“Just like our bodies benefit from physical exercise, our brains do too,” she said. “This program not only works our brains, it brings new bodies into the center, and they instantly become involved, active in other programs and or services that we offer. This also leads to a reduction in isolation.” 

Greenberg said the Northeast Ohio Mind Challenge impressed a doctor of geriatrics from the Cleveland Clinic, who sat in on the final round in May in Solon.  

“About 120 people showed up … and Leon Bibb from Channel 3 was the emcee,” said Greenberg. “He did a fine job.”

The team of seniors from Mentor emerged as champions, answering a tricky gourmet question about liqueur.

Richard Biasella was one of the competitors on Broadview’s squad.

“I’ve been to sports bars that have weekly trivia contests and participated about seven times prior to the Mind Challenge,” he said, adding that he did some studying before the round, mainly in geography.

For future Mind Challenges, Biasella said he would like to see no repetition in the questions, just to give these brain Olympics more heavy lifting.

And there will indeed be future Mind Challenges. Art Greenberg, Phil Levine and Lana Oriana are brainstorming next year’s heats right now.

“What we hope for 2020 is to have a similar format, but we plan to expand the capacity,” Greenberg said.

More senior centers will be invited on board, he said, and communities may field more than one team. There is even talk of expanding the concept into Columbus and Cincinnati.

“We’re going to have as many teams as we can get,” said Greenberg.

He foresees a greater online and social media presence for the contest in 2020, but in the meantime he invites individuals and sponsors interested in getting involved to email him at or contact Levine at

Featured image photo caption: Local seniors are participating in a new challenge to keep their minds sharp. From l-r, Gerry Nemeth, Neil Oblonsky, Rick Biasella, Connie Britain, John Bertschler and Mary Sommer represent Broadview Heights in the Northeast Ohio Mind Challenge, a trivia contest that drew members from 16 area senior centers in its inaugural season. Photo courtesy A. Washabaugh