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Piecing Together Lives, One Puzzle at a Time

Photo Provided Elmhurst resident Ruth Vensel is shown with a few of the dozens of puzzles available to residents at the nonprofit assisted residence in Wheeling’s Pleasant Valley neighborhood. A corner of a second floor activity room offers plenty of natural light for those who enjoy the challenge of puzzles, some over 1,000 pieces

Are you puzzled? Does today’s world amid a pandemic, a looming Election Day and civil unrest have you harkening back to simpler times? Well many Ohio Valley residents are doing just that. And they are finding solace in a box of 1,000 puzzle pieces.

Yes, puzzle sales are seeing a sizable resurgence in popularity across the country. Locally, at Deluxe Novelty and Toy store in downtown Martins Ferry, puzzle sales have outpaced the sale of games especially since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Store owners Michael and Constance Yeso said the sale of games and educational projects such as flash cards and card games for children stepped up when the pandemic shut down schools and businesses. Mihcael said before schools returned to in-person sessions, customers sought out Legos, building and science projects and flash cards with the states and capitals to keep their youngsters busy.

However, as the weeks passed, the demand for puzzles increased greatly.

“It’s been insane,” said Constance.

Michael said more than 80 percent of the people seeking puzzles were of the older generation. “They would tell me they hadn’t done a puzzle for 20, 30 or 40 years but now they want to get back to them because they are at home more than ever now,” Michael commented. “It’s been huge.”

He said the 1,000-piece puzzles have been very popular among the adults. Customers have been buying three or four puzzles at a time. Puzzles come in a variety of subjects with animals, birds, farm and nostalgic scenes. Even favorites sports teams and college facilities are in puzzle form.

” A lot of families are doing puzzles together. Grandparents are doing them with their grandkids. Sometimes they glue and frame the finished puzzles.”

There are studies that show working puzzles can be therapeutic. An article by Brianna Pelletier, an author with U.S.-based Jigsaw Puzzle Factory, noted the connection between puzzles and persons with Alzheimers.

“Jigsaw puzzles can provide a positive outlet for those with the condition. While jigsaw puzzles don’t stop the condition, they can make life a little easier and less frustrating.”

Pelletier said Alzheimer patients may have trouble communicating and withdraw from others. Puzzles can be a fun activity that “creates opportunities for connection and conversation.”

Also, working puzzles can be calming for Alzheimer patients and children with special needs. The activity can make them less agitated and more focused. Children may realize a sense of control and accomplishment when completing puzzles. Puzzles with pleasant images and fewer pieces may invoke special memories for Alzheimer patients, according to Pelletier.

Deluxe Novelty, celebrating its 65 year in business, has always listened to customers seeking help with the appropriate toys for children with special needs. And the store is as popular with baby boomers as it is with children.

“We have several generations coming into the store. I think a lot of people, especially now, want to support independent businesses. We have carved out our own niche and people know we carry many of the traditional toys and games they want.”

Puzzles have been a mainstay form of entertainment at many of the local area’s assisted living facilities. At Elmhurst–the House of Friendship in Wheeling, working puzzles is a favorite pastime among several of the residents.

A closet at the facility is filled with dozens of puzzles available to all the residents.

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