Regional trivia competition helps seniors stay social

by Melissa Martin

With age comes wisdom, and hundreds of seniors across greater Cleveland have found a way to use decades of knowledge to their advantage by competing in a local trivia tournament that awards $5,500 in cash prizes and, more importantly, a year’s worth of bragging rights.

Known as The Mind Challenge trivia game, the multi-week competition is modeled after the popular NCAA March Madness basketball tournament. As part of the fun, teams of four to six players ages 50 and up sign up to represent their hometown senior center in a bracketed tournament against other teams representing other nearby communities.

The cost to participate is free for seniors, and cities are encouraged to field more than one team to increase their chances of winning. Fairport Harbor, for example, currently has nine teams participating.

The Mind Challenge tournaments themselves are moderated by a host who challenges the teams to answer point-based trivia questions that range from music and television to presidents, history, sports, state capitals, anagrams and everything in between.

“Almost anything is fair game,” said Art Greenberg, who founded the game with Phil Levine in 2019. Both men are former Cleveland-area radio executives.

Players on each individual team have 90 seconds to collaborate and come up with an answer to the question asked by the host. Making things even more competitive, teams can wager a certain number of points based on the players’ confidence in a specific subject category.

After several rounds, the team with the most points is crowned the winner and moves on to the next level of the tournament. There are six rounds of competition in total, Greenberg said, noting that the overall number of teams is whittled down to eight and then to four who compete for the grand prize of $2,500.

Second-, third- and fourth-place teams take home smaller cash prizes. What the team does with those winnings is up to each team and the senior/community center they represent.

The reigning mind champions hail from Broadview Heights after winning back-to-back competitions in 2021 and 2022. That team opted to donate a portion of those winnings to an area food pantry.

The Mind Challenge has more than quadrupled in size since it was founded five years ago and is looking to expand again in 2023. Close to 100 participants representing 16 cities participated in the event in 2019. By 2022, those numbers blossomed to more than 520 players representing 90 teams from more than 50 area communities.

Greenberg said this year’s tournament, which runs from May 8-June 14, is on pace to include more than 525 players and 90 teams.

The attraction, he said, is simple.

“We developed this to try and help seniors stimulate their minds and get people out of the house where they can meet and socialize with others,” Greenberg said. “Everyone really enjoys it, and they have a great time. It’s not necessarily about winning because not everyone can win. It’s more about the enjoyment of playing, having fun and being with other people.”

Broadview Heights Human Services Director Kathy Rush-Parsson echoes those sentiments.

“We don’t do many team events at our senior center,” she said, “so I think this is a great opportunity for them to work together and to spend some time with people that they maybe wouldn’t otherwise have a chance to spend time with.”

Players also say they appreciate the socialization the competition affords.

“I like all the camaraderie with our team and trying our wits against other seniors,” said Judy Zamaria, a player for the city of Brecksville’s team. “I learn a lot, and it helps keep me young. I’m glad I signed up for this, and I’ve met a lot of nice people.”

Greenberg said teams are still able to register for this year’s competition through their local senior and community centers. More information is available at ∞