Tapping into memories of rugby to help those with dementia

West of Scotland Rugby Club
West of Scotland Rugby Club

An exciting new initiative which aims to improve the lives of people living with dementia who were rugby fans is being launched in East Dunbartonshire.

The West of Scotland FC, based at Burnbrae in Milngavie, is taking part in Rugby Memories - a venture based on the ground-breaking work of Alzheimer Scotland’s Football Memories project.

The pioneering scheme will use decades-old photographs, newspaper cuttings, and memorabilia to trigger recollections from the past in former players and fans affected by the condition.

It is hoped the project will bring together current members and no longer active members of the club.

It will connect older members to an active outreach which will keep them part of the rugby community, providing a continuing connection to important friendships, positive associations, and practical respite for carers.

Trials previously piloted by Alzheimer Scotland have had remarkable success, with people with dementia showing improved communication, social behaviour and memory function.

The project is being supported by East Dunbartonshire Council and its partners in the Dementia Network as part of its ground-breaking work with people in the community living with dementia.

Councillor Michael O’Donnell, convenor of social work, said: “Dementia affects an estimated 2,020 people in East Dunbartonshire and that’s set to double in the next 25 years.

“People who have dementia and their families often experience stigma, isolation and depression and the council is committed to improving opportunities for inclusion through awareness and dementia sensitive environments.

“This in turn will ensure that people with dementia enjoy the same quality of life as other residents despite the challenges experienced as a result of the disease progression.

“This project will allow people with dementia and other memory problems to gather to enjoy looking back at old photos and memorabilia. This will hopefully help them to rekindle some old memories and enjoy being part of a rugby community again.”

West of Scotland FC President Neil McCallum said: “We are delighted to be part of this initiative and we knew straight away that it was the kind of programme we wanted to support.

“Many present and past players and supporters of West and other local clubs are affected by dementia and our hope is that we will be able to play a part in helping to provide a dementia-friendly environment for people to share their reminiscences of rugby.”