When Nancy Dolan moved from Tucson to Vi at Silverstone, a Life Plan Community, she didn’t know a single person in Scottsdale. Now, three years later, she’s at the center of a buzzing or, more accurately, clicking social circle. The reason? Mahjong.
Getting the Buzz Out
A centuries-old Chinese tile game, mahjong has found immense popularity amongst seniors across the United States. Some play the game for the challenge because it requires quick calculations, pattern recognition and complex strategic choices; whereas for others, it’s simply a great way to make friends. “It’s a very social game,” said Nancy. “For some people, it’s a better jaw exercise than brain exercise!” she added with a smile.
Nancy was active in mahjong circles in Tucson for years, so she was excited to discover there was an established weekly game at Silverstone. The players around the table were all very experienced. Nancy recognized that other newcomers to the community, and any novices to mahjong, might feel intimidated to join in the advanced play. So, she approached staff members to find out if she might be able to organize a game for beginners.
“That’s something we encourage,” said Vi at Silverstone Lifestyle Director Curtis Rick. “When a resident moves in and says, ‘I’d like to start this class or activity,’ we help them create a buzz and get the word out to encourage people to sign up.”
Card Room Clicks
It didn’t take long for word to spread. Today, mahjong has grown from a single weekly game to a happy, near-omnipresent sound coming from the corridors of the community. The rhythmic clicking of tiles signals the play of three different mahjong groups: beginners, graduated, and experienced. And Nancy is there for them all, but especially the beginners.
She teaches her novice players the rules and offers assistance as they play. “Someone taught me once, so I thought, why not turn around and pass that knowledge to someone else,” she said. For her beginners, Nancy counsels patience. “Some people pick it up quickly and others will take time, but that’s okay because everyone is having fun.”
Fun and a little friendly competition are hallmarks of the community, which is why there are so many games, both mahjong and bridge, happening every single day. In fact, the games are so popular, their competitors often spill out from the game room into the bar. “That’s kind of handy when four o’clock rolls around,” joked Nancy.
In mahjong, as in life, winning isn’t everything. “There are hands where no one wins, and those are called ‘wall games.’ When we have a wall game, we put a quarter in the kitty, and after some time, we actually have enough money to all go out for a happy hour.”
Making Her Mark
Bringing mahjong to Silverstone did wonders to help Nancy find her circle at Silverstone, a circle she made it her mission to widen. “I consider it my way to give,” she said,” for the people who welcomed me. I want people to feel welcome. I go around telling newcomers, ‘If you want to watch, watch. If you want to join, join!’ There is no pressure and it’s a great way to make people feel included.” And thanks to Nancy and her team of mahjong enthusiasts, newcomers can simply follow the sound of clicking tiles to a circle of friends ready and willing to welcome them.