Football reminiscence helps people with dementia

26 November 2012

Professor Debbie Tolson

Professor Debbie Tolson

Around 200 people with dementia will attend a mass football reminiscence at Hampden, Scotland’s national stadium, to help unlock their forgotten pasts.

Researchers at Glasgow Caledonian University believe football-related reminiscence is one of the most effective ways of triggering lost memories in those with illnesses such as Alzheimer’s Disease.

The event – the biggest football reminiscence session in Scotland – hosted by researchers at Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) and Memories FC partner organisations will take place on Friday 30 November between 12.30pm-4pm.

This is the final stage of an 18-month project led by the University that will now be followed up in Spain to help former footballers with cognitive impairment.

The fans will be taken on a nostalgic trip of famous players and historic games using film footage, photographs and memorabilia such as old footballs and strips.

A prototype, digital interactive ‘kitbag’ equipped with sound and vision designed by collaborators from Northumbria University and Quilting Memories will also be available during the event.

And there will be performances of a play, I Left My Heart, about football legend Charlie Tully, written by Padraig Coyle and based on the researchers’ findings.

Scottish Football Reminiscence Partnership Memories FC researcher Andy Lowndes, of Glasgow Caledonian University, said: “It’s amazing to see people come to life before your eyes as they begin to talk about their teams, and about important moments such as Charlie Tully’s goals from the corner flag in 1953 at Brockville or Jim Baxter playing keepy-uppy at Wembley in 1967.

“The banter is terrific. It’s an emotional experience for those of us who work with people with dementia, for the carers and particularly for the families.”

Project leader Professor Debbie Tolson, of GCU, said: “The scene in the Football Museum is so uplifting; smile after smile washes over faces as men proudly pose by their favourites in the Hall of Fame and recount their own stories.”

A family carer said: “It made such a difference. The day at Hampden, he was bright, happy and talking. It was like a light going on, but more importantly he felt good, he was able to participate without any pressure.

Henry Simmons, Chief Executive of Alzheimer Scotland said: “This project helps support our aspiration to ensure that people with dementia have access to a wide range of evidence based therapeutic interventions.

“There are only a handful of drugs available for people with dementia and skilled human intervention using techniques such as reminiscence is proving to be a very effective way of helping people live well with dementia.

“This work demonstrates how we can use the medium of football in a creative and therapeutic way and also how we can bring together the talent, skills and knowledge of the research community alongside front line practitioners and football organisations to truly make a difference in the lives of people with dementia.”

Memories FC is a partnership between Glasgow Caledonian University, Alzheimer Scotland, The Scottish Football Museum, European Former Players Association, Arts & Humanities Research Council and University of the West of Scotland.

Project lead Dr Laura Coll Planas from the Institut de l’Envelliment, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona and colleagues will be attending the Hampden event with former football player Juan Mari Zorriqueta, President of the Spanish Federation of Veterans Football-Players Associations (FEAFV).