You’ve seen their usernames—now meet some of the real people behind the leaderboard. Like you, they play games to keep their brains active and pass the time. And like you, they have lives beyond their screen time. We talked with eight AARP gamers to find out their stories and learn who they are when they’re not logged in.
Name: Donna R.
Lives in: Michigan
Games: 10x10, crosswords, Mahjongg Solitaire
When not playing AARP games I am: Working and volunteering
Quotable quote: “When my children got older, I wanted to go back to work. I eventually found work in logistics—I’d spent more than a decade doing it as a mother.”
Donna R. works in logistics—and she plays with logistics too. The Michigan mother of three returned to the workforce in 2010 and found that she’d cultivated a prowess for logistics over the years, and she transfers those skills to her gaming as well as her volunteer work. We talked with Donna about parenting skills, learning styles and playing the numbers.
When are you likeliest to be found playing games?
I mostly play during my two 15-minute breaks at work. I used to spend some of that time cleaning out my purse, but the games give me a chance to challenge myself. Usually it’s 10x10, Daily Crossword and Mahjongg Solitaire. I scored an 1,890 on the Daily Crossword, which surprised me—I don’t think of myself as being wired for crosswords, but I’m a curious person by nature, so I like to try new things. It’s a bit of risk-taking, a bit of a challenge.
My work isn’t always stressful, but there are times when it is, and when you work in logistics, you really need to focus. The games help with those periodic stresses. And they’re a chance to try my luck—see what the game gives you and then find your way through it. In some ways that isn’t luck, I suppose, but skill.
You said you’re not wired for crosswords, despite having done well on the Daily Crossword—so are you wired for numbers games?
I actually got into numerology a while ago—my husband was trying to sell a house, and it just wasn’t selling. He mentioned this to a friend who asked the address, and she suggested that the numerology of the house’s address might be interfering with its appeal. You can’t change the address, but she suggested that we paint the door green to counteract the energy—and it worked!
I think of numerology as about putting things in the right place. Some of my friends laugh it off as too “woo-woo,” but it’s just fun to play with the numbers. It keeps my brain engaged—it’s like a puzzle. I suppose there’s a link there to my work in logistics, come to think of it.
How did you come to work in logistics?
I was a stay-at-home mom, but when my children got older, I wanted to go back to work. I spent six years putting out these job applications and going on interviews. I eventually found work in logistics at an automotive supplier. I hadn’t done that kind of professional work before, but I’d spent more than a decade doing it as a mother. You’ve got to figure out how to get everyone to school—different schools—to the doctor and dentist, pick them up from their after-school activities. It’s a lot of juggling and figuring things out, which is good preparation for a career in logistics.
It turns out I really like it, and I’m good at it. Parenting gives you skills that don’t seem at first to have monetary value, but some of those skills really do. My three kids all had learning challenges when they were younger, but completely different kinds of challenges. As a parent, I had to learn to navigate them all and try different exercises with them to tap into the way each of them learned. My daughter had a hard time with math but loved words, so we started finding ways to translate math into word problems. One of my sons was the exact opposite. There was some stress in trying to figure out how to support them, but it was also a really good learning experience for me. That knowledge of how people learn comes in handy in my work.
Donna’s pro tip: Look at the big picture.
“Some of these games, like 10x10, are sort of like those magic eye paintings—if you look at the whole picture, you’ll see where things need to go. But if you get hung up on waiting for a specific block to show up, you’ll run into trouble. There’s a little bit of risk-taking involved, but it’ll pay off.”
AARP Behind the Leaderboard profiles are meant to reflect individuals’ experiences and outlooks and do not necessarily reflect AARP’s point of view.