Football Memories

Dementia pic

Davie is in full flow at the end of the table.

He’s talking about a Falkirk team from 1957, rattling off players’ names and moments from matches.

But this is no ordinary football chat.

Some of the men sitting round the table drinking tea are living with dementia.

They’re taking part in a session of the Football Memories Project which uses sporting memorabilia and photos to stimulate memories.

The only giveaway is the fact some of the stories resurface and are retold as if for the first time.

While some may struggle to remember what they did that morning, recalling facts and figures from games stretching back decades seems effortless, and generates a real buzz in the room.

Officially launched five years ago in partnership with Alzheimer’s Scotland, the Football Memories Project has mushroomed, taking in other sports such as rugby and shinty, as well as movies and music.

There are now groups the length and breadth of Scotland, as well as in countries across Europe and in the US.

In Scotland there are around 90 thousand people living with dementia.

As well helping those with the condition, these sessions also provide welcome support for relatives.

Lynne Stevenson’s father takes part in rugby memories groups.

“Throughout the sessions he seems to relax, he seems to be in a positive frame of mind and that can last for a good few hours after we’ve been at a rugby memories session.

“He can whistle and sing the whole way back in the car so it has a lasting effect on him as well.”

Dementia wide 2

The project is run by trained volunteers.

“They become quite animated,” says Alan Bennie. “Something it does for them is it takes them away from social isolation.  People with dementia often become socially isolated and there’s not too many opportunities for them to come and have fun, so it’s almost like being in a football crowd.”

Another volunteer, Jim Boyd, says, “To see someone go away with a smile on their face, and to speak to their carers or family and say that they can’t wait for the next group meeting and how they enjoyed it and talked about it on their way back home, I think that’s immensely satisfying.”

The demand for more groups continues to grow, as the project demonstrates the ability of sport to change lives and reconnect people.

Now organisers want to see its benefits recognised further.

Michael White has been involved from the start, and is now the project’s National Co-ordinator.

“I would like to see it become almost like a prescribed activity, that someone who is diagnosed with dementia could go along to their GP, and the GP would recommend they join a memories group because it’s not just the memories of football, it’s the memories of the society in which they grew up, schooldays, national service, workplace.

“It’s like an Aladdin’s cave, once you trigger the memory there’s no telling where it will go.”

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