In the shoes of Tony Jameson-Allen | Co-founder of The Sporting Memories Network C.I.C

It is Day 38 of this “in my shoes” blog series, looking at dementia from different perspectives. Very different perspectives! What started as an idea for Dementia Awareness Week has turned into a daily blogpost as I keep hearing such compelling stories and simply have to publish them!

Today we have a wonderful idea – so simple and so effective. The way the guys talk at our cricket club and seem to remember every ball of every match they have ever played, how could reminiscing about sport fail as a wonderful trigger to stimulate the thoughts and emotions of sports lovers who happen to be living with dementia? Here Tony Jameson-Allen tells us about the Sporting Memories Network and includes one of my favourite cricket stories…

Tackling Dementia through Football and Sport

Tony Jameson-Allen.
Copyright Sporting Memories Network CIC

My fellow director, Michael White is a football club historian. Michael used to visit local day centres and care homes to give talks on football. He quickly realised that standing up and talking in front of groups of older people, most of whom had dementia, was of no real benefit to anyone and often resulted in the participants catching up on some sleep as this approach just didn’t engage people. Michael hit upon the idea of taking his vast image archive along, spreading the photos out on a table and working with smaller, focused groups.b

Recounting the positive impact this approach had at a conference, in 2009 the Scottish Football Reminiscence Project was born. A small joint project with Alzheimer Scotland and the Scottish Football Museum was established and evaluated. The evaluation by Glasgow Caledonian University in 2010 concluded that football reminiscence has the potential to contribute to the wellbeing of men with dementia in terms of enhancing their self- confidence, self-expression, sociability and sense of enjoyment.

Irene Gray explained the impact football reminiscence had on her husband “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.”

Copyright Sporting Memories Network CIC.

The benefits of offering football reminiscence to older men with dementia quickly became apparent. Here was an activity that re-captured not only the passion of supporting a team, but all that came with that. Images passed around not only invoked memories of the great players and teams, of matches won and lost, but also of routines and traditions within communities before and after games. The mixture of images, conversation and nostalgia sparked communication and interaction within the group from individuals who would previously be withdrawn or quiet. See Hamish’s story.

Hamish spotting his brother. Copyright Sporting Memories Network CIC.

Remarkable stories began to emerge from participants. Bill Corbett was persuaded to join one of the sessions by his mates at the day centre he attended and he began to speak to Michael and the group about his experiences as a footballer. It transpired that Bill had actually lined up at Wembley alongside the great Bill Shankly and Matt Busby against England. Michael managed to find the match report and even a programme from the game, in which Bill had received a great write up for having put in a terrific performance as a young player.

Michael, fellow entrepreneur Chris Wilkins, and myself founded the social enterprise with a vision to offer not only football, but all the major sports enjoyed in Britain. Offered access to a remarkable sporting image archive to create resources to use in our work, we can now deliver training, resources, support and advice to organisations wishing to implement this unique approach. Evaluation measures ensure further learning on the impact and benefits of this approach have will be demonstrated and these tools are not only used to monitor impact on participants but on staff, relatives and volunteers who are involved in projects too.

Our vision is to roll out the use of Sports Reminiscence across the UK and beyond, demonstrating its potential not only for improving the wellbeing of people with dementia but also for those who are experiencing or at risk of depression, social isolation or who have been recently bereaved or indeed been made redundant and are struggling with maintaining a role or identity within their community.

We encourage environments to recruit service users as volunteers in any project they implement, giving the opportunity to those who are able, to demonstrate their knowledge and providing an interesting role for them within their community.

The work has received the support of a growing number of high profile sports people including Sir Alex Ferguson, David Coulthard, Liz McColgan and John Inverdale along with exciting press coverage from FIFA, Sky TV and in the national papers such as the article by Glaswegian comedian Kevin Bridges that appeared in The Guardian.

We invite fans, sports stars, celebrities and journalists to share their own memories of their favourite sports on our Replay websites. This week saw the launch of the Replay Tennis site, John Inverdale supported the launch and shared a memory about two Wimbledon finals that stick in his mind. John Barrett, who for many years was the BBC’s senior commentator at the championships, shared a wonderful memory of commentating with Dan Maskell on the 1980 final between Borg and McEnroe. Have a browse of all the memories on the sites and please do add your own, no matter how short it might be. These memories can then be used by facilitators to generate discussion, or they are just a great read for other fans and encourage more sharing of stories.

Whilst the support and media coverage is exciting, our focus is fixed on improving the wellbeing of older people, continuing to grow the evidence base and rolling out this concept across care environments. We plan to demonstrate how the universal language of sport can also help connect individuals – patients, relative and staff, leading to a better understanding of the person and aiding the development of caring, therapeutic relationships.

The Sporting Memories Network launched a weekly sports reminiscence newspaper to aid group or one to one reminiscence with a special Father’s Day edition which was made available as a free download for kids to give to their dads.

We have just launched our HUGE training manual, it is A3 in size, to ensure it doesn’t get lost in all those A4 files that inevitably sit on shelves in care environments. The guide contains everything you need to know to run a group. The images contained within it include iconic photographs such as Bobby Moore and Pele exchanging shirts in the 970 World Cup, through to Pat Moss, Sir Stirling’s sister, being presented with the Ladies Trophy for the Monte Carlo Rally in 1958.

Also contained in the guide are 48 Replay Cards. These are A5 in size and on one side have a picture of a sports legend in action. On the other is all the info a facilitator needs to know about the star, so you don’t need to be an expert in sport to run a group!

The Replay cards cover 8 sports, with 6 legends of each, such as Ali, Billy Jean King, Graham Hill, Pele, Gavin Hastings, Mary Rand, Arnold Palmer and Don Bradman. Don Bradman.

The Don. The greatest batsman to have played the game? Without doubt in my mind anyway. Though there are inevitably lively debates when deciding the greatest. But the Don is special. In his final test innings, which was in England, he needed to score just 4 runs to end his career with the remarkable test batting average of 100, but the unthinkable happened and the greatest batsman ever failed. Out for a duck and an average of 99.94.

That test innings wasn’t his final match in England though. That honour fell to the beautiful cricket ground on the cliff tops in Scarborough, North Yorkshire. In 1948 my father was a teenager growing up as a huge cricket fan and he would help work the main scoreboard at the ground. He’s the one with the big curly mop of hair on the right in the photo below. An excited, young, John Jameson got to see the Don’s final innings. John managed to get photos of the Don walking off the pitch at the end of the match.

The scorebox at Scarborough cricket ground in 1948. Copyright Sporting Memories Network CIC.

John remained a massive Don Bradman fan all his life. When he died his will requested a suitable passage from the Don’s biography was used as the reading at his funeral. My older brother stood before the packed chapel and read the excerpt describing the Don’s final innings at Scarborough. Dad also asked for some of his ashes to be scattered under the scoreboard at Scarborough. The club were very helpful, allowing myself and my brother to go to the ground and make sure these wishes were carried out as Dad would have wanted.

The Don. The memories. Some happy, some sad but all cherished and dear to our hearts.

Tony Jameson-Allen is a Registered Mental Nurse and worked with people with dementia and their carers on local, regional and national projects and initiatives to help improve services.

About Gill Phillips - Whose Shoes?

Passionate about personalisation in health & social care. Creator of Whose Shoes? - an imaginative approach to helping people work together to improve lives.
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1 Response to In the shoes of Tony Jameson-Allen | Co-founder of The Sporting Memories Network C.I.C

  1. Pingback: Round up of “In my shoes” – Dementia Awareness, Week 7 | Whose Shoes?

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