Football memories programme Remember Well held an event at Fir Park last week to celebrate the project’s successful first year.
Since being launched in Motherwell in November 2012, it has expanded and now takes in groups from across North Lanarkshire, including one set up last May in Orbiston Neighbourhood Centre, Bellshill.
The event saw the launch of a DVD called Football Focused Reminiscence: The Story So Far created by Alan McGhee, nephew of former Motherwell manager Mark McGhee.
It gave an overview of the programme, which uses football to stimulate memories in dementia sufferers, featuring service users and volunteers and representatives of the partners involved, North Lanarkshire Council, Motherwell FC, Alzheimer’s Scotland and NHS Lanarkshire.
The event also heard from participant Alec Connacher, carer Marion Gray and the council’s executive director of housing and social work Duncan McKay, while project co-ordinator Norrie Gallacher hosted a quiz of football past.
Certificates were presented to Bill Steven and Pat McCann to mark them volunteering for over 100 hours with the programme.
Norrie said: “It’s going better than I ever thought it might with spreading across North Lanarkshire and this gives the guys something to look forward to, as well giving their carers a break.
“There has a been a huge difference in all of the guys, for some it might just be smiles, but at the other end of the spectrum we have people wanting to contribute to organising the sessions themselves.”
Alec, a member of the Steelmen group from Motherwell, said: “I thoroughly enjoy coming here, it is one of my delights every week.
“I would like to thank everyone involved in running the project for all they’ve done.”
The prgramme received praise from all quarters.
Marion, whose husband Bill attends the Motherwell project, said: “When Norrie approached us about this we were very interested, and Bill has thoroughly enjoyed his time here and just loves the conversation and the banter.”
Brian Donald, who runs the Orbiston group, said: “We have taken a slightly different approach to other groups as while we started by discussing football we have now moved on to play the likes of carpet bowls, pool and table tennis.
“However, it is the members’ club so it is whatever they want to do to remain engaged.”
Jim Clarke, Alzheimer’s Scotland, said: “Men historically have been hard to integrate into things, they tend to isolate themselves, but this shows that using football as a reminiscence tool brings men out in numbers and those numbers prove just how much it is needed.”
Kevin O’Neill, NHS Lanarkshire, said: “4,000 people in Lanarkshire alone have dementia and one of our key goals is to raise awareness and show people can live with it and projects like this do just by using the asset of football to provide a common purpose.”