Big Hearts launches new Football Memories dementia group

The current Football Memories group enjoy a trip to Hampden. Picture: Lauren MacNeish
The current Football Memories group enjoy a trip to Hampden. Picture: Lauren MacNeish
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BIG Hearts Community Trust – Hearts’ official charity – has launched its second Football Memories group at Tynecastle in a bid to help even more dementia sufferers across the Capital.

The project, which has been running for more than two years, helps up to 15 people who are battling the condition.

But its popularity is so great that a new group starting in July is needed to meet growing demand for the service.

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Football Memories trains volunteers to spend time with dementia sufferers who have an interest in football.

Helpers talk about teams and matches from the past and work with images and memorabilia to stimulate memories.

The programme has been visited by many former Hearts players.

Craig Stewart, 39, from the Southside, became involved as a volunteer after learning about the project through supporters clubs.

He said: “It’s an hour-and-a-half sitting in groups around the table with photographs and old newspaper cuttings. One volunteer has made a scrapbook out of an old wallpaper catalogue which is really popular, but there are also laminated photographs and Hearts books with player histories.

“It is all very visual and the service users tend to really come to life when they see players that they remember.”

He added: “In normal conversation, they can be quite reserved and struggling with their memories, but when they see the pictures you can notice a real difference. They become enthusiastic and excited and as a volunteer you build up a camaraderie with them.”

The project’s impact has been summed up by the wife of one of the men who attends the meetings.

She said: “He’s a different person when he comes out. It’s put new life into him, and you can see that with all the men there.”

From July, there will be two Football Memories groups, taking place on the second and last Tuesday of every month. The first meeting of the new group will be on Tuesday, July 12, from 1.45pm until 3.15pm in the Bobby Walker Suite at Tynecastle.

Created through a partnership between Alzheimer Scotland and the Scottish Football Museum, the project is supported by Edinburgh Airport.

The groups emerged as a result of Alzheimer Scotland’s work on a similar scheme called Football Reminiscence.

john.connell@edinburghnews.com