North Ayrshire football project aims to help fans relive those magical memories

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An initiative designed to help bring back memories of old football games for those with dementia and Alzheimer’s is also trying to help those suffering from loneliness.

“Football memories is a programme to give something to the older generation, tackle social isolation, create friendships and use the power of football to stimulate the mind.”

That’s according to Craig Hamilton, the North Ayrshire Leisure Ltd.’s Senior Community Sport Officer who is responsible for organising the trips down memory lane throughout the region.

Credit: KA Leisure

This project has been running since 2008 and receives funding from the Scottish Football Association (SFA) and Heritage Lottery helping participants across North Ayrshire and all over Scotland.

The SFA has also been helping those with memory-debilitating illnesses through the Scottish Football Museum which has been distributing memory boxes to various community groups across the country.

Chairman of the Scottish Football Museum Trust, Robert Craig stated: “Football Memories boxes have proven to be an invaluable resource, with 75 boxes now being used by groups throughout Scotland.

“The touch and feel of the objects in the boxes stimulate memory recall, bringing back distant recollections of games played and watched.”

The interactive meetings are run regularly in North Ayrshire, at places such as nursing homes, day care centres and Saltcoats Library.

Group Facilitator for Saltcoats, Paul Todman reiterated: “The Scottish (Football Association) South-West region put money in to provide us with a football memories box, it’s got old pictures, also things like Vics VapoRub and Bovril to smell.”

“Everyone is welcome and the football memories programme supports those with dementia and many other factors.”

“It’s like a dressing room away from a dressing room. Every week we have a different theme, 20 minutes of whatever happened at the weekend, the middle section is a challenge and we finish with a quiz, which causes a bit of excitement at the end.”

Paul was kind enough to invite me along to take part in a session and I gratefully accepted.

I felt welcome immediately and enjoyed a morning full of laughs, the guys even let me take part in the fun quiz at the end.

Afterwards, I spoke to Brian, 85, from Saltcoats, who said: “It’s great banter and gets me out of the house – I never miss it.”

The affinity shared by the group was evident and they had just been to Hampden Park for a day trip the week before.

Credit: Paul Todman – KA Leisure

About the Hampden trip, Paul said: “It was a great wee day out, something for them to look forward to. I think we’ll go again.”

When asked about future goals for the Saltcoats project, Paul declared: “I’d like to add a few more to the group; anyone can come, but for me the goal is always the same…come back next week.”

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