FOOTBALL MEMORIES                               20 February 2017 NEWS


“Sometimes people just light up.”

For George Laidlaw, that’s the most pleasing thing about the dementia project he volunteers for.

George helps run Dundee Football Memories — an initiative aimed at giving older people, particularly men, the chance to meet and reminisce about the beautiful game.

It uses football videos, pictures and quizzes to trigger memories for people who suffer with the disease, in an effort to keep them as healthy as possible.

The group meets monthly — and its most recent gathering saw legends of Dundee and Dundee United visit to relive the glory days with their elderly audience.

George, a former Menzieshill High School headteacher, told the Tele that the scheme had played a major role in helping those in our communities who face daily struggles due to battles with dementia and Alzheimer’s.

He said: “There are a couple of benefits. First of all there’s the social benefit, which helps to combat loneliness in people. And then there’s the mental stimulation, which is known to have positive effects on people with dementia.

“My wife is a volunteer and what we see is people going away in a better frame of mind than when they came in. Their spirits are lifted and they look forward to coming back.

“It’s very difficult to get men to come to support groups. They came up with the idea that there’s an interest in football so there’s that common interest. And it’s popular with the players as well.

“It gives a bit of respite but it also gives a bit of interest. It’s amazing, we’ve found that in our group we play a bit of music, show clips from the matches and have a quiz. Sometimes people just light up.

“It’s triggering memories that they have. And of course men enjoy talking about football.”

The project is hosted by Dundee Dementia Resource Group, working in conjunction with Alzheimer Scotland and UNITED for ALL.

Former Dundee goalkeeper Pat Liney — a regular volunteer at the group — was joined by ex-United stars Hamish McAlpine and John Reilly, along with Gordon Wallace — who played for both Dundee clubs — at the meeting.

Neil Imrie, 79, from Douglas, has been attending the group for four years. He said it had helped him maintain a fairly independent life, despite being diagnosed with dementia around 10 years ago.

The former bus driver told the Tele: “The best part is meeting a lot of the older people that have some good stories to tell.

“Supporters, the ex-players dropping in, they’re really good, telling you about their past games, things like that. I’ve made a lot of friends..

“Without a doubt I’d encourage other people to get involved in these groups.

“You get the quizzes, speak about some of the old players, share your knowledge — it’s great.”

Mr Wallace told the Tele: “I always find these meetings interesting. I think it really sparks off some memories for people.

“It’s strange because we have people and they’ll maybe struggle with their memory, but then can tell you who scored a winning cup final goal 50 years ago.”