Both Sandie Keene and I spoke at the launch of the Leeds Sporting Memories Network this week at the Civic Hall. I thought it might be of interest to provide a bit of background to the project and why we were both keen to support its further development here in Leeds.
The Sporting Memories Network is a social enterprise established to roll out the use of sports focused reminiscence activities. The project essentially makes use of sports reminiscence to improve the wellbeing of older people including those with dementia living in their own homes and in care. Leeds has over the last 9 months hosted a pilot of the project with 15 care homes in the city. And now that the project has been successful in receiving funding from the national social care skills agency, Skills for Care, it is to be rolled out to 35 care homes, 5 day centres including at the new Holt Park Active and 10 of our neighbourhood networks across the city.
I think all of us have memories of a sporting hero or a sporting event and this project trains up front line staff to be able to use reminiscence to help connect and engage with people who have dementia. Dementia causes loss of confidence and can affect language and dialogue skills. Families and carers can become lost for ideas about how to engage with the person with dementia. The right kind of reminiscence can open blocked channels of memory and help a person to open up once more.
I know from my grandmother, who developed dementia in the last three years of her life, that trying to have conversations about things in the present like what was going on in the news or what we as a family were up to right then, would not resonate with her. You could see in her eyes how she struggled to comprehend what I was saying. However, the moment you talked with her about something from her early life, it was as though you flicked a switch, she could start to connect the dots and engage in some meaningful conversation.
In care home settings, people with dementia are often perceived to be behaving in a difficult manner. Their isolation often manifests itself in frustration, boredom and anger, walking around in search of something to do. Thankfully today fewer and fewer people with dementia are being prescribed anti-psychotic drugs to deal with this behaviour. The Sporting Memories project aims to show that investing in staff time up front is a way of creating a positive care home environment.
Tony and the team at the Sporting Memories Network are really keen for more individuals and organisations to get involved. They are also interested in people to share their own sporting memories that can be used in the creation of further Leeds focused reminiscence resources. What are your favourite sporting heroes or sporting events?
I had the privilege, in my previous role as Executive Member for Leisure and Skills, of seeing Leeds’ response to the Olympics last year. One thing I will not forget is the time the Olympic flame came to the city last summer. I remember going to John Charles Centre for Sport in South Leeds, early one morning, to find 2000 young people from across Leeds waiting patiently and excitedly for the Olympic flame to arrive. As the torchbearers entered the stadium a massive cheer erupted from the young people. They and indeed all of us were transfixed by what we saw. That memory will certainly, for all of those young people, be something they remember for the rest of their lives. And I’m sure having the Tour De France here next summer will provide memories for many more people too.
So, please do come forward with your sporting memories and keep an eye out for the project as it goes from strength to strength here in Leeds.
You can find out more about the project and tell them about your memories at www.sportingmemoriesnetwork.com