Try Sport as Reminiscence for a New Approach to Dementia Care

Many men living with dementia suffer from depression and social isolation and often find difficulty when seeking out stimulating social activities to meet their needs. Although community groups aimed at older people are commonplace, many focus on activities seen by this generation as being female-orientated, such as cookery and crafts, which can be off-putting to some men who have pursued more traditionally male activities such as sports.

In care homes, the problem can be compounded by the high ratio of female-to-male residents which can make finding male company and pursuing shared interests difficult. However, a new group which meets monthly at Leyton Orient’s Brisbane Road stadium, is using football as a means of promoting reminiscence and is already experiencing success in attracting a loyal following of men (as well as a number of women!) with dementia to talk about their memories of football.

Read on to learn more about this exciting new project and how using sport as reminiscence in your own service can offer something new and interesting to your service users.

The monthly sporting memories sessions at Leyton Orient are run by the Leyton Orient Trust in partnership with the Sporting Memories Foundation, a charity set up to help people with dementia by engaging them in social activities and helping them to recall memories of playing or watching sport. The Foundation recognises the passion that many people have for sport and tries to use this to tap into positive thoughts and memories which may otherwise remain locked away.

3 Tips to Use Sport to Reawaken Memories

  1. Discover vintage footage: The huge range of materials available on YouTube, particularly when combined with the availability of Smart TVs and tablets, means that it’s never been easier to show vintage footage of sporting events to those in your care. Tailoring materials to particular interests and experiences can mean that you are able to offer a truly personalised reminiscence experience, perhaps even being able to find footage of a sporting event that the person attended in order to promote discussion and engagement with others.
  2. Use sporting equipment: For those who have played as well as watched sport, the opportunity to handle sporting equipment can be a powerful tool to simulate interest, even in people with dementia who may usually show little enthusiasm in activity sessions. Passing around a cricket or rugby ball, a tennis racket or a pair of football boots offers not only visual but tactile stimulation, and is almost always successful in prompting discussion on how equipment has changed over the years.
  3. Make a sporting event into a special occasion: For many people, watching sports has been a social activity, perhaps attending an event with friends or watching it on TV in a pub. Organising for a group of sporting enthusiasts to watch a live event such as the Grand National or FA Cup Final together is an excellent way of recreating that experience.

If you want to find out more about how sport reminiscence and other beneficial activities for your service users with dementia, subscribe to Care Quality Matters now. Every issue is packed with advice and guidance, supported by online resources, templates and checklists – and comes with our Dementia: Care and Support supplement.

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