» Making a Difference with Memories

Making a Difference with Memories

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Richard McBrearty is Curator of the Scottish Football Museum, at Hampden Park in Glasgow and the Project Director of Football Memories – a reminiscence project for older people living with dementia. After a successful pilot in 2009, there are now around 230 groups across Scotland. These are held at football clubs, localised Alzheimer Scotland networks, care homes and NHS hospitals. Richard tells us about his involvement in the project and how invaluable it is to people living in Scotland.


The idea of the Football Memories group was brought up back in 2008 at the first Scottish Football Heritage network meeting. Richard said, “The Football Museum thought it was a fantastic idea but it’s not something that had ever been considered before. It was a step into the unknown for us.”


Resources play a huge part in the success of each reminiscence group. He has been heavily involved in the development and growth of the centralised database and digital archive over the last 10 years. “With over 8000 images now, it allows each session to be personalised to suit every participant.


Big Hearts, the charity of Heart of Midlothian FC, currently have a two-model approach to their memories group, which includes ‘Edinburgh Memories’. This encourages participants to explore not only footballing history, but local history from over the years too. “This is an idea we are very keen on. We want to learn by their example. We hope that by next year we will be able to digitalise images in relation to local history too.


Having volunteered at his local library, Richard has seen first-hand just how effective reminiscence groups can be. He recalls a particular participant who was an ex professional footballer, “I showed him an image of the 1950’s reserve team and he recognised himself straight away. Up until that day, he hadn’t remembered a single person. That day he left smiling, and I was just as happy – that’s the value for the volunteer too!


Many participants have no memory of the people around them or where they are, “Football Memories groups help people who are lost in the contemporary world.” It is hoped that by attending sessions, old memories come back. “They are back in a time when they remember who they are. It gives them their personality back. I’ll never forget the wife of one of our participants who said – each time I drop off this sad old man with dementia, I take home my husband.


The project aims to not only help participants, but the families and carers too. Providing them with some respite. “Knowing you have made their life better, even for only 30 minutes or an hour. It makes all the difference.


Thank you to Richard for sharing an insight into the brilliant work of the Football Memories project.


Big Hearts memories sessions are hosted every Tuesday, at Tynecastle Park. For more information visit www.bighearts.org.uk/programmes/football-memories/


– October 2021