17 February 2022
By Elaine Murphy
New Sporting Memories Initiative by The Alzheimer Society of Ireland Aims to Support People with Dementia in Reminiscing and Talking About Sport
There are an estimated 7,509 people living with dementia in Cork and each year more than 11,000 people develop the disease across the country – that’s approximately 30 people every day. There are many forms of dementia, with the most common being Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, mixed Alzheimer’s Disease/vascular dementia, frontotemporal dementia and Lewy body disease.
A new Sporting Memories Handbook has been developed to support local sports organisations in setting up Sporting Memories groups. An initiative of The Alzheimer Society of Ireland, Sporting Memories groups are intended to provide a forum for people with dementia, families, supporters and friends to reminisce and talk about bygone sporting days as well as encourage participation in physical activity. The booklet, which is supported by the Dementia: Understand Together campaign, aims to help improve the health and well-being of people with dementia, as well as older people in general.
The handbook is part of the wider rollout of the Sporting Memories programme in communities across Ireland. The initiative hopes to inspire and encourage local sporting clubs and organisations to organise regular Sporting Memories groups within their localities. The groups bring people together to reminisce about their lives through the medium of sport, using images, video footage, memorabilia, quizzes, and guest talks to spark memories and encourage social engagement. By using sporting cues, the purpose is to stimulate memory, improve communication and social skills, as well as create a sense of camaraderie and belonging.
The ultimate objective of the programme is to tackle dementia, depression, and loneliness through safe, friendly sessions, led by people with a passion for sport and a desire to help people stay engaged in their communities.
The booklet is a “how-to” guide for the development of Sporting Memories groups, and includes information on dementia, how to set up groups and organise different activities, as well as offering communication tips, ways to create a supportive environment, and details of how to access group resources. By meeting at the local sports grounds, or visiting a clubhouse, groups can help to conjure up fantastic memories of past experiences and events. Physical activity is also a key part of the programme with light exercises built into each session.
Speaking about the publication of the new handbook, Donal Murphy, Operations Project Manager, The Alzheimer Society of Ireland, said
“We know that sport plays a key part in the lives of many people. From GAA to rugby, football to golf, people are immersed in sport from an early age as players, as club members, and as spectators. Sport gives us so much pleasure and often punctuates our lives with golden sporting moments of joy and ecstasy. Allegiance to club, county, and country, gives us a sense of identity that binds us together like nothing else, creating memories that last a lifetime.
“We also know that for people with dementia, remembering past events often comes more readily than recent events. Through this programme, we want to use the power of sport to help bring people together, and to re-establish that connection between people with dementia and the communities in which they live. By wearing the county jersey or team colours, and by using memorabilia such as match programmes, posters, and tickets, we want to be able to trigger exciting memories and take people on a trip down memory lane. With it, we hope to evoke stories of chance encounters with childhood sporting heroes, of flasks of tea and packed sandwiches on match days, of lining the streets to welcome home sporting champions.”