Wednesday, June 16, 2010

On the march with Alzheimer Scotland's Tartan Army

Lots of talk at the moment of how football can, if not change the world, at least symbolise a changing world.

A nice example of the positive power of the game from closer to home on Guardian.co.uk yesterday:

Researchers at Glasgow Caledonian University have found that looking at football programmes, photographs and memorabilia of the relevant era could stimulate the memories of many people with dementia, offering respite from this debilitating condition for themselves and their families.

In their report into the year-long football reminiscence project in Stenhousemuir, which was instigated by the Scottish Football Museum, authors Irene Schofield and Debbie Tolson from the university's school of health recorded one dementia patient being moved to tears of pleasure by the reminiscence, while the wife of another was amazed by the change in her husband: "That is the old guy back again," she told them.

Schofield lists a wide range of positive benefits for the men who took part: "The men with dementia were more confident, calmer, more talkative within the group and, after attending the group, more communicative with their spouses."

The onset of dementia can create a vicious circle in which the condition may inhibit those diagnosed from doing things, which in turn worsens the effects. "The experience of dementia can be very disempowering," says Schofield. "One of the problems of people with dementia is that they can be in a position where they lack stimulation, and this is likely to have a disabling affect by lowering their abilities. This is a really important reason for offering appropriate activities."

Football, as the national sport, acts as the thread that runs through the lives of many men in Scotland, tying together important events in a fan's life. "The football reminiscences trigger significant life events. Memories of supporting or playing for a local football club lead on to significant early friendships, first jobs or war service. Being a football supporter can be a key part of some men's social lives," she says.

Alzheimer Scotland have now taken the project on:

Alzheimer Scotland wants to build on the impressive results of the pilot by taking over the short term funding of the project; working in partnership with the team to ensure that enough support is secured to roll this initiative out across Scotland. Furthermore, all monies raised via our Charity of the Year partnership with the Scottish Football Association will go towards funding this project.

Henry Simmons, Chief Executive of Alzheimer Scotland, said:

Our vision is simple. There are thousands of football fans across the country with dementia, who have stood on terraces from Pittodrie to Palmerston Park and felt the joy and the pain that football brings. They have burned with the passion that we Scottish supporters are famous for. These are special memories and football has a language that transcends all cultures and, I think, dementia too.

There are also thousands of people across the country who are decent, kind, gentle and committed football enthusiasts. Many of whom will never have thought about volunteering or engaging in anyway with people with dementia. We are going to speak to these people. We want to use their passion for the game and their personal values in a way that improves the lives of people with dementia and their families.

A brilliant scheme and one that brings me back to our clubs playing an active role in their communities again.

If you'd like to volunteer visit Alzheimer Scotland.