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How football reminiscence work can help and engage people living with dementia

At Sporting Memories Network we support older people across the country living with dementia, depression and loneliness. Engaging them in social activities and helping to recall memories of watching or playing sport is a key part of our work.

By sharing these memories and tapping into a passion for sport, they help people to connect with others and with their past, reawakening positive thoughts and feelings that otherwise remain hidden away.

Taking sport and physical activity into accessible venues that people are comfortable with can be very effective in initial contact, providing taster sessions in ‘non sporting’ places, not everyone has the confidence to go to a leisure centre or sporting venue initially, so libraries and social club locations are proving a popular choice of destination. It is at these locations that we use images and memorabilia to help trigger a memory, of a favourite sporting memory.

Football is often one of the most popular sports and we work with a number of patrons, football bodies and other partners to help fund opportunities in the sport. The Professional Football’s Association (PFA) have recently funded a project with the news agency, Reuters, to enable us to digitalise ‘never seen before’ imagery spanning thirty years of football – including classic shots of the football superstar, Pele.

In order for these images to help prompt discussion at our groups all around the country, with those people living with dementia, depression and loneliness, we will be seeking volunteers to ‘Join the Squad’ and help digitalise these images for the first time.

It is with the PFA that we have also joined forces on a collaborative project to produce a practical guide of advice to former footballers and their families living with dementia. This has been produced in conjunction with Leeds Beckett University who researched the findings.

To promote this and our other initiatives in football further, we have already had a number of successful ‘memory games’ at Grimsby and Bolton Wanderers and there are more planned this year, as well as ultimately looking to have a ‘memories weekend’ that is dedicated to our work in the sport.

Simply, through using the memories of our footballing patrons and ambassadors, we want to spark memories that can help create happiness for those people living with dementia.


For more information on how to get involved, visit



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