Football memories help people with dementia

05 December 2012

The event was held at Hampden Stadium

The event was held at Hampden Stadium

Scotland’s largest football reminiscence event drew a crowd of more than 300 people to Hampden Park in Glasgow yesterday.

Around 240 people with dementia along with their families and carers attended the mass football reminiscence at Scotland’s national stadium.

The event marked the climax of an 18-month long research project which  has brought GCU’s work in this area to a national and international audience.

Researchers at Glasgow Caledonian University, who lead the Memories FC project, believe football reminiscence is one of the most effective ways of triggering lost memories in people with illnesses such as Alzheimer’s Disease.

At the event, people with dementia talked animatedly about famous matches and Scottish football legends and engaged in friendly banter with rival fans.

They were taken on a nostalgic trip with the help of a prototype, digital interactive ‘kitbag’ designed by collaborators from Northumbria University, which  used old strips, boots and programmes fitted with electronic tabs to trigger footage of important moments such as Jim Baxter playing keepy-uppy at Wembley in 1967.

And they laughed and cheered as they watched a one-man play, ‘I Left My Heart’, about football legend Charlie Tully, written by Padraig Coyle, which recounted the player’s goals from the corner flag in 1953 at Brockville.

One man said: “I used to go every single Scotland match so it is fantastic to back at Hampden today. This has been one of the best days of my life.”

Scottish Football Reminiscence Partnership Memories FC researcher, Andy Lowndes of Glasgow Caledonian University, said:  “This has been the best day of my professional life, the culmination of an 18-month project.

“It has been great to see so many people happy and excited as they relive their football memories. The banter is terrific. It’s an emotional experience for those of us who work with people with dementia, and particularly for the families.”

A family carer said: “My husband has really enjoyed the day. It’s lovely to see him so interested and excited.”

A carer said: “A lot of the men in care homes don’t talk much but when they attend a football reminiscence event we are amazed to see these same men chatting away, smiling, laughing and joking. I’ve learned so much about historic football games from just listening to them.”

Project leader, Professor Debbie Tolson, of GCU, said: “It’s wonderful to see people with dementia talking over old photographs and memorabilia. Carers and family members have told me that football reminiscence makes the people they look after more talkative, animated and confident, as well as calmer and more relaxed.”

She will now apply for funding for more research to carry out a clinical trial to develop football reminiscence as a therapeutic psycho-social intervention.

The reminiscence project will also be followed up in Spain to help former footballers with cognitive impairment. The event at Hampden was attended by project leader Dr Laura Coll Planas from the Institut de l’Envelliment, Universitat de Barcelona and representatives from the Spanish Federation of Veterans Football-Players Associations (FEAFV).

Henry Simmons, Chief Executive of Alzheimer Scotland, said: “We know football reminiscence works and changes people’s lives for the better.

“There are only a handful of drugs available for people with dementia and this technique is proving to be a very effective way of helping people live well with dementia.”

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