How football memories help dementia patients

Late Hibs legend Lawrie Reilly helped support the project
Late Hibs legend Lawrie Reilly helped support the project
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A pioneering service using footballing memories to help dementia sufferers is to be expanded after proving a huge success.

Football Memories aimed to revive memories of players, games, goals and incidents from football matches in people’s younger days when it was launched at Easter Road Stadium two years ago and has been helping transform people’s lives ever since.

The project is a partnership between Alzheimer Scotland and the Scottish Football Museum, with the late Hibs legend Lawrie Reilly also supporting the cause.

And with more than 84,000 people in Scotland having a dementia diagnosis, the equivalent of every spectator on an average Scottish football weekend, the Hibernian Historical Trust has embraced the form of reminiscence therapy and is holding free monthly meetings for anyone to get involved in.

Club historian Tom Wright said the group needed more volunteers so they could look into expanding the service.

“We are seeing more and more people coming so we are trying to expand the service,” he said. “The guys that we have become friends with each other and we have photographs and programmes and just talk about the old days but it’s very relaxed.”

Volunteer Alex Ballach, 62, said the benefits to members were “immediate” as people shared a “common bond” through the sport.

“It’s a worthwhile tool and using football is a mechanism into that because we all have football memories we can talk about until the cows come home,” he added. “We have all got personal stories but it’s giving people the opportunity to have memories valued.”

Michael White, Alzheimer Scotland’s Football Memories manager, said the group had taken off along with another at Capital rivals Hearts through the Big Hearts Community Trust.

The charity was now looking into other sports such as rugby, cricket and golf following the success with football, which is the first time reminiscence therapy has been used with sport.

Mr White said: “Football is so important in lives of people living in the 50s and 60s that it triggers a lot of memories. The benefits are many from self confidence and self esteem to better communication.

“We have had examples of people hardly talking at all outwith the groups but they are very confident within groups because it’s a pleasurable activity.”

The Trust holds meetings inside Easter Road Stadium between 11am and noon on the first Monday of each month. To find out more contact Mr Wright by e-mailing curator@hibshistoricaltrust.org.uk

katie.richardson@edinburghnews.com