If you’re 50 or older and you fancy yourself a good speller, you might want to give AARP’s 17th Annual National Spelling Bee a try.

One Hoosier, Marlene Harry of Brownsburg, participated for several years and finished in the top 10 four years in a row.

Brian Greene went to school in Southern Indiana, but now lives and works in Cheyenne, Wyoming, and participated in his first Bee back in 2005.

“I turned 50, and you have to be 50 to be eligible for the Bee. And I found out late in my 50th year that hey, there’s this Bee that goes on in Cheyenne and you have to be 50 years of age and I thought, I always enjoyed spelling bees when I was in school – so, I did it for the fun of it.”

Since 2006 Greene has worked behind the scenes to facilitate the Bee. He’s the head judge and has been dubbed the “Word Wizard” as he is the one responsible for coming up with the 500-word list for the spelling bee.

Greene says he uses several sources for ideas for the word list, including suggestions from board members and daily emails from Merriam-Webster’s.

“There’s always the challenge of trying to find words. They all have to come from our dictionary. The eligibility is determined by coming from the Merriam and Webster’s 11th edition.”

Joanne Mai with AARP says organizers go to great lengths to make sure everyone has a chance to participate.

“I have been involved with the Bee for the last 10 years, and during that time frame the oldest competitor was 99 and she was actually blind and she competed on a Braille typewriter during the written test.”

Mai says participants have to miss two words to be knocked out of the Bee, and a bell is sounded when you misspell a word.

Mai says there are generally about 50 competitors a year at the Bee.
“It’s a lot of fun. Some people do come just for fun and other people come because they’re very competitive. I think we try to offer something for everyone.”

Mai says the first day of the competition includes a “Gray Matters” workshop where people learn how diet, fitness and relationships impact brain health. The bee is scheduled for August in Cheyenne.

Find out how you can participate at www.aarp.org.