Gray Matters Games satisfies two passions for owner Joe Barron: inventing games that support brain health, and fighting to end Alzheimer’s disease.
Joe saw the toll that Alzheimer’s and dementia took in his own family. Both of his grandmothers faced the disease; one grandmother lived with her diagnosis for 12 years. Joe’s family had to make difficult decisions as his grandmothers progressed through the disease. His mom, being one of five children, found it challenging to find agreement with siblings on matters of their mother’s independence, such as her ability to drive.
Despite the hardships that come while watching a loved one face Alzheimer’s, Joe and his family soaked up the moments they had together singing, dancing, and playing games. At one stage, Joe’s grandmother didn’t remember anyone’s name—but she remembered all the words to songs from her childhood. So, Joe and his family learned the words to a number of songs from the 1940s and 1950s and sang along with her.
Joe’s game company Gray Matters Games “promotes community, encourages fun and gives back to Alzheimer’s research.” Games can be a great activity to do with loved ones facing Alzheimer’s or dementia. Playing games helps build new memories and cherish the little moments together. Studies show that keeping your mind active and engaged may delay cognitive decline. Gray Matters Games creates games the whole family can enjoy, along with more challenging strategy games for serious gamers.
For those who haven’t faced Alzhiemer’s or dementia firsthand, Joe says not to be afraid of reaching out and asking for help. Joe first got involved with the Alzheimer’s Association Illinois Chapter through the Junior Board. He learned about the many free, timely resources available while serving on the board. Since the disease affects over 6 million Americans, Joe says anyone you stop on the street will know someone who has been impacted by the disease. Thankfully, more and more families and businesses are joining the fight for a cure by raising awareness and funds.
Today, Joe donates a meaningful portion of Gray Matters Games’ proceeds to the Alzheimer’s Association to fund research and support services. This year, as part of The Longest Day, Joe partnered with Fair Game in Downers Grove, IL to host the Games for Brains event. Eric Brezina of Fair Game and other members of Chicago’s bustling toy and gaming industry joined Joe to fight the darkness of Alzheimer’s disease over summer solstice weekend. The event took place on Saturday, June 19 and included a silent auction, shopping offers, and game inventors as well as entertainers. Companies included Forbidden Games, R2i Games, Fuzzy Logic Escape Rooms, Otrio: Inventor’s Edition, and Mike O’Donnell Handcrafted Magic.
The Longest Day is all about doing what you love. Joe turned his passion for gaming into a fundraiser to end Alzheimer’s disease in honor of his grandmothers, and for families everywhere. He’s helping us get closer to a cure, one move at a time.