Big Hearts charity to tackle loneliness with Football Memories project

Big Hearts will be hosting their first 'Edinburgh Memories' session open to the public, as part of an ambitious three-year strategy to further support older people facing social isolation.
Big Hearts will be hosting their first 'Edinburgh Memories' session open to the public, as part of an ambitious three-year strategy to further support older people facing social isolation.
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A BIG-HEARTED Capital charity has launched a new community project that aims to tackle loneliness in the over-65s.

The Big Heart Community Trust – the official charity partner of Hearts’ – will be welcoming groups to Tynecastle twice a month to share memories of the city together in a bid to show social isolation the red card.

The new Edinburgh Memories group comes four years after the charity introduced their successful Football Memories project that helps support people living with dementia.

The original project sees volunteers talk about teams and matches from the past and work with images and memorabilia to stimulate memories in the group that has gone from strength to strength. Supported by the People’s Postcode Lottery, the Edinburgh Memories group will focus on the history and people of the Capital to improve older people’s social connections and mental health. Innes Shirreff, volunteer development officers at Big Hearts, said: “Football Memories has increased in popularity over the last couple of years but we noticed that it was predominantly men because of the football ties and we wanted to include more women.”

A test group was held last week and was a great success with new participants and volunteers taking part. Innes said: “It was really positive. We got loads of great feedback and everyone offered good ideas.”

Music, film, schools, dancehalls and cinemas are just some of the topics that will be covered in the new group. Around 25 volunteers, aged from between 40 to 70, will work across both of the reminiscence projects. Volunteers contact care homes, sheltered housing complexes and accomodation to find people who might benefit from the groups, as well as advertising in Hearts’ match day programme. Innes said: “We’re an open charity and we can reach lots of people through football but we want everyone in the city to be excited about this. Although the groups are held in Tynecastle, it’s about the stories the city has to tell and sharing those stories.”

The launch of the new project marks the first whistle on a three-year strategy to support older people living in isolation with the 90-minutes sessions held in the Hearts Museum paving the way. Volunteers will spark conversations with photographs, videos, music and newspapers encouraging attendees to share their recollections of life in Edinburgh past.

Big Hearts expects to welcome over 100 people every month, with some coming every session and others dipping in and out. Innes said: “This project has real potential to reach out to people and get them involved to share stories.

“The groups are a never-ending opportunity to look at different things. For someone coming for the first time they will experience a whole load of different memories. It is inclusive, fun, social and friendly.”

Big Hearts’ fundraising and development manager Caryn Kerr said: “Edinburgh Memories is designed for over 65s who are not specifically interested in football but would love a chance to spend the afternoon out in the community, sharing cups of tea over fascinating stories about the city.”

During the summer the charity has run more than 40 days free activity for some of the city’s most vulnerable groups including kinship care families, primary school pupils and older Hearts’s fans.