Members of Stonehaven and District Probus Club were taken on a trip down ‘memory lane’ at their last meeting when former director of education for Aberdeenshire, Mike White, told the story of the ‘Football Memories’ project. There are over 84,000 people in Scotland with dementia, the equivalent of every spectator on an average Scottish football weekend.
Thousands of people with dementia loved their football and still do. Alzheimer Scotland’s Football Memories project harnesses that passion for the game to improve their lives.
It all began when it was noticed that many men with memory problems had an impressive recall of football from their younger days and pilot projects were carried out in Falkirk, Aberdeen and in Edinburgh with Hibs FC.
Groups of people were brought together for a ‘football memories’ session. The key to the success of these sessions lay in the use of old football pictures and memoribilia to help the recall of players, images, goals and incidents from the past. Some of the stories that emerge from the groups are fascinating and do not appear in any books. The clarity of the recall can be spectacular, and of course, as with all football, there can be a great deal of argument and debate, as well as the inevitable humour and banter.
Mike was able to relate some amazing true stories. A Hungarian gentleman joined one group with the warning from his carer that he spoke no English.
However, when a photograph of the famous Hungarian side that thrashed England 6-3 at Wembley in 1953 was shown he was able to name every player in both teams and he continued in the discussion in very good English. He was made very welcome by the Scotland fans present.
The original target number for these groups was five. Presently there are 73 such groups throughout Scotland.
The initiative has secured the support of such figures as Sir Alex Ferguson, Craig Brown, Willie Miller, and Terry Butcher.
Success has prompted a rugby memories and a shinty memories initiative. Perhaps the most touching tribute came from a lady who said: “I bring in a dementia patient, and I collect my husband.”
The vote of thanks, proposed by John Callander, was enthusiastically endorsed by members for a hilarious but very moving morning.