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Seniors put the pieces together

'Puzzle people' maintain sharp minds

Posted: February 15, 2009 11:38 p.m.
Updated: February 16, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Work progresses on the puzzle, which is available to anyone interested in contributing.

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Tiny puzzle pieces separated by color sit in paper plates on top of a table in the lunchroom at the Bouquet Canyon Apartments.

Here they sit, waiting to be picked up and placed where they belong.

Gloria Pasco, Dolores Saracho and Jose Bellas, all residents at Bouquet Canyon Apartments, are known as the "puzzle people."

They've been working on puzzles together for the past four years.

The lunch room at the apartment complex dedicates a permanent table for the puzzle people where there is always a puzzle laid out, begging to be put together.

The puzzle table is available all day, everyday.

"Jose is the constant," Pat Sakaki, the general manager at the apartment complex, said. "He's always here."

"Jose comes here as early as early as 6 a.m.," Pasco said. "And sometimes we stay here until 11 o'clock in the evening."

Puzzle-making transcends language barriers. Jose doesn't speak English, but the puzzle people don't let it inhibit their work.

"He's good," Pasco said, referring to his puzzle skills.

"He's such a nice person, too," Saracho said. "Everybody loves him."

Anyone who wants to can participate. There are no rules or restrictions. Even apartment employees will pass by, stop, pick up a piece, snap it in the right place and continue on their way.

There is no set time the puzzle people get together either. The puzzle station is always available and they come and go as they please.

"It's all at our own leisure," Pasco said.

Each puzzle starts the same. The pieces are divided onto separate paper plates according to color.

The "edge-pieces" are picked out to form the frame, an easy way to get the puzzle started.

Then, the puzzle is split into sections and designated to each consistent puzzle person.

Everyone has his or her own style.

Saracho takes her assigned section and works on it separately. Once she's put her section together, she reunites it with the rest of the puzzle.

Pasco and Bellas sit at the table and work on their individual sections side-by-side.

Easy puzzles, ones with lots of different colors and distinguishable sections, take a few days for the puzzle people to complete.

Harder puzzles, ones with slight variation in color and those containing more detail, can take up to a few weeks.

The puzzlers predicted the one they're currently working on, called "Grandpa Watches the Kids," will most likely be finished in a few days. It's one of the easier puzzles.

"The picture has big people," Pasco said. "It's easier to put the parts together."

Thomas Kinkade paintings (turned into puzzles) are more challenging for the group.

"His [puzzles] have more shades, colors, and they are hard to distinguish," Saracho said.

"But we enjoy doing them," Pasco said. "It's a challenge. People always ask why we do it. They always say, ‘It's so hard!' It is! But it's fun."

The more challenging the puzzle, the more these residents welcome it.

"If it's an easy puzzle, I don't want to do it," Saracho said.

"Yeah, she's always wanting harder puzzles," Pasco added.

Their biggest puzzle contained 1,500 pieces. It was a puzzle of a colorful underwater scene. After completing it, which took about a month, Saracho claimed the puzzle for herself.

"It's hanging in my room now," she said.

Puzzle contributors aren't the only ones free to take puzzles home with them after they're done. If people like a puzzle, they are welcome to take it home.

Once a puzzle is finished, Bellas brushes some glue on top. Once it's dry, the puzzle in its whole is ready for framing.

If a puzzle isn't claimed, the puzzle is hung somewhere in the apartment complex for others to admire.

Most puzzles are donated to the apartment to give the residents something to do in their own time.

"Putting it together is just fun," Saracho said. "I did them when I was a kid. I love it."

"Instead of sitting in your apartment all day long ..." Pasco said.

"You have to come out and socialize," Saracho finished.

"We believe it sharpens our brains," Pasco said.

"It definitely helps the brain," Saracho said.

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