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The beginnings of the game we know and love called Bingo can be traced all the way back to the mid-1500s in Italy. It started out there as "Lo Giuoco del Lotto D'Italia," or the Italian Lottery. Around the 1770s, the game was introduced in France and played among wealthy Frenchmen. It wasn’t until the early 1900s that the game was introduced in America as “Beano.” There are different versions of how Beano eventually got the name Bingo, but since then it has become one of the most popular games in the world.

But why? There are thousands of other games that aren’t as popular and don’t draw such a cult-like following. To answer this question, I simply decided to ask a few of the people who show up daily to play here at your LifeSpan Center. Harvey Janssen told me, “It’s about the social interaction that I get. I don’t care if I win or lose, honestly, because out here we all win. It’s something to look forward to and the prizes are nice. It’s where I get my laundry detergent each week.” I used to call Bingo occasionally and let me tell you, they are serious about what kind of gifts you bring! It’s the little things like the laundry detergent, paper towels, soap, dish towels, trash bags, and other household items they enjoy winning. Wayne Gage says he thinks people enjoy playing because, “anybody can play Bingo. It doesn’t matter whether you’re disabled, old, or can’t see very well like me. They make cards with big letters and numbers on them which gets me to focus more.” Then you have Helen Smock, who when I asked her why she enjoys Bingo so much, simply replied, “Well winning, of course!”

Whatever the reason, it’s definitely the most popular game we have on the calendar each month. It routinely draws up to 20-25 players in attendance per day. You even see younger players showing up to play. When I was attending Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, a big group of us would always go to a local establishment on Thursday nights to play. For me, it was about the social interaction and simplicity of the game. You had just as good of a chance to win as anybody else playing. Lots of friendships and memories came from those Thursday nights, much like for Harvey, Helen, and Wayne here at the LifeSpan Center. It’s easy to see there’s something special about Bingo, but for each individual person, it has a different reason and meaning.

Stop by your LifeSpan Center today to see what all the fuss is about, make some memories, socialize, and “just win some great prizes,” as Helen put it! Pick up a copy of our monthly newsletter “Connections” or sign up to get an email copy of it to see dates, times, and sponsors for Bingo each month. See you next year!

The Coles County Council on Aging offices are located at the LifeSpan Center, 11021 E. County Road 800N, Charleston. The telephone number is 217-639-5150 for the Coles County Council on Aging and LifeSpan Center. The numbers for the programs are as follows: Coles County Telecare -- 217-639-5166; Family Care Giver Resource Center -- 217-639-5168 and Dial A Ride -- 217-639-5169 or 1-800-500-5505. See you at your LifeSpan Center.

Come join us each weekday at noon for “Lunch at LifeSpan.” Peace Meals are served Monday through Friday at a suggested donation of $3.50. To register, reserve a lunch or learn more, contact Peace Meal at 217-348-1800.

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