Memories FC event brings joy to those with dementia

24 November 2011

Memories FC event brings joy to those with dementia

Professor Debbie Tolson at the Scottish Football Museum

More than 250 people, most of them people with dementia, attended a mass football reminiscence event at Hampden, Scotland’s national stadium, hosted by researchers at Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) and Memories FC partner organisations.

It was the biggest football reminiscence session to take place in Scotland and now it is hoped to follow up its success at football clubs across the country.

Elderly fans were taken on a nostalgic trip through photographs of famous players of times gone by and memorabilia such as old footballs and strips.

Scottish Football Reminiscence Partnership Memories FC researcher Andy Lowndes, of Glasgow Caledonian University, said: “Most of the participants had a dementia and were from nursing and residential homes.

“You could feel the excitement build as they were shown old photographs of some of the players from yester-year. They began shouting out names of players and some cheered when their team was mentioned and booed when their opponents were. The banter was terrific. One student nurse who was helping out said she found the whole thing quite emotional."

After the auditorium session, participants had tea and the memory sharing continued between carers and the older people. They then visited the football museum and hall of fame.

Andrew added: “Some of the men went to see the pitch from the area where trophies are presented. One said, ‘I never expected I'd get to do this!’”

Memories FC now hope to hold coffee morning type events at clubs including Celtic, Hearts, Falkirk, Hibs, Queens Park, Motherwell, Aberdeen and are already looking ahead to organising another free public seminar at Hampden in May or June 2012.

Project leader, Professor Debbie Tolson, of GCU, said: “As delegates started to arrive at Hampden Park, I was struck by the frailty of many of the individuals and the quiet determination of some to leave wheel chairs and walking frames behind to take their seats.

“For a few minutes I did wonder if our plan of 45 minutes of short talks including a ‘mass reminiscence’ was a good idea given the obvious fatigue of some of the audience. But once it was under way, the audience became animated and I could hear the banter and laughter as I walked towards the museum to greet  others who had started their afternoon with interactive smaller group reminiscence sessions in the Football Museum.

“The scene in the Football Museum was so uplifting, smile after smile washed over faces. The cameras of family, friends and care home staff clicked as men proudly posed by their favourites in the Hall of Fame and recounted their own stories. 

“The wife of one gentlemen with early onset dementia told me she had tried without success to find something that her husband would enjoy doing that might help him cope. She described her desperation to find something dignified that would be meaningful to him.

“I stood pitchside with one of the gentlemen from a Glasgow nursing home. We stood together in the silence looking out at an empty stadium then he patted my arm and nodded quietly.  When he spoke he said, ‘I was a referee, this was my life. Thank you.’”

Researchers are now working on a review and will be inviting people with dementia and family carers to comment on proposals for future intervention studies. They are also undertaking a European Survey of football heritage resources to look at delivering similar reminiscence projects in other countries.

Professor Tolson added: “In terms of our future ambitions these are twofold. First we have a scientific agenda to examine the therapeutic benefits and determine patient reported outcomes from football reminiscence. 

“As we already know that football reminiscence is welcomed, particularly by men, and we know that participation alleviates loneliness providing a much needed tonic that brightens mood and promotes communication, our second ambition is to roll out a programme of reminiscence nationwide.

“To do this we need to resource the digitalisation of the artefacts from the Scottish Football Museum and create a sustainable delivery model. Much of our energy is currently devoted to chasing funding and I am even more determined to succeed in our project ambitions given the endorsement from people with dementia received at Thursday’s event at Hampden.”


For further information, please contact:

Roisin Eadie, Press Officer, on 0141 331 8614 /07824 537 598


Memories FC Scottish Football Reminiscence Partnership  is a knowledge exchange programme between GCU, Scottish Football Museum, European Former Players Association (EFPA), Alzheimer Scotland, St Louis University USA, the University of the West of Scotland, AHRCC and SFC. 

Glasgow Caledonian University is an international university delivering excellence, with a strong commitment to the common good.  With 17,000 students at its main Glasgow campus and outreach campuses in London, China, Bangladesh and Oman, the university offers a modern environment for learning, teaching and applied research. 

The university has particular applied research strengths in the fields of health and the environment and is rated among the top 10 in the UK for its allied health research and in the top 20 in research in the built and natural environment. 

Glasgow Caledonian University’s mission is to provide a high quality, accessible, inclusive and flexible learning and teaching environment enhanced by curiosity driven research. It applies its knowledge and skills for the social and economic benefit of the communities it serves in Scotland and around the world.