Meet 'The Acol Zoomers': The four grandmothers who have overcome modern technology to keep up Bridge habit

Twice a week Shireen Paterson puts on her lipstick and fixes her hair before sitting down to play a hand of Bridge.

Top Left Shireen Paterson, right Jessie Mitchell, bottom left Dorothy Thomson and right Liz Pottie picture: Shireen Paterson

But rather than taking a seat at her local Milnathort Bridge Club, in Kinross-shire, the grandmother logs on to Bridge Base Online with her three friends while hosting them on a Zoom call at the same time.

Known as ‘The Acol Zoomers’ – not to be confused with The Zimmers, she quickly points out – Mrs Paterson, from Milnathort, said mastering online communication for the game and the companionship has “saved the day” for the keen players, who include her local friends Jessie Mitchell, Dorothy Thomson and Liz Pottie.

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“We like to have our talk on Zoom a little bit before and after the game, just like what we would do at the club,” she said.

The four women, all grandmothers in their 70s and 80s, play twice a week on Mondays and Thursdays for three hours each time from about 7pm until 10pm with chatting either side.

Pre-lockdown, they used to meet every Monday for club games and then on Thursdays they would visit each others’ homes for social matches.

“It gives us something to look forward to, gives us a structure to our week, and I really don’t know what we would be doing without it,” Mrs Paterson said.

She added: “Sometimes one of us will just drop from the screen because rural broadband isn’t brilliant, but we just wait patiently until whoever we have lost reappears again.”

Mrs Paterson said Mrs Pottie’s husband Sandy suggested the four friends should come up with a bespoke name for their newfound lockdown group.

“The Zoomers was an obvious choice as that’s what we have been using to keep in touch, and we put Acol in front of it as that’s the type of Bridge that we play,” she said.

The idea for the online activity came about after Mrs Paterson’s family used Zoom to stage her diamond anniversary celebration, with relatives joining in from around the globe.

“We had 16 of us online from Singapore, London, Aberdeen, all over the world and it was great,” she said.

“It was such a fun party and my daughter suggested I try it with my friends.

“So with a bit of help from the family, we got set up with Zoom and then the online bridge.

“At our age and stage in life, it wasn’t particularly easy, but once we got the hang of it, it is absolutely wonderful.

“We’re definitely the wrong generation to be up to speed with this modern technology, but we’ve actually managed it.”

Zoom hasn’t only been used for keeping up their Bridge habit in the four households.

Once discovering its benefits for maintaining social occasions, Mrs Paterson said she and her friends have been putting their newfound technology skills to greater use.

“The four of us even had a wee New Year Zoom party,” she said.

“At 11:45pm on the night, we all sat down with a drink and before we knew it, it was after 1am by the time we had stopped chatting.”

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