A YORKSHIRE charity which uses the power of sporting memories to tackle loneliness, dementia and depression has been given almost half a million pounds to help get older people exercising.
The Sporting Memories Network, which was co-founded by former North Yorkshire psychiatric nurse Tony Jameson-Allen, will use the Lottery funding from Sport England to include exercise sessions at its reminiscence groups across Yorkshire over the next three years.
The charity works with community groups and organisations to use a shared love of sport to spark conversations and new friendships among older people at weekly volunteer-led groups.
As well as reminiscing about sport and allowing group members to tell their stories through sporting memories, the groups have also begun to include exercise and the playing of accessible sports, which will now be expanded thanks to the lottery funding,
Mr Jameson-Allen said: “Through this new funding, we will be able to significantly expand the range and availability of appropriate physical activity and sporting opportunities for the people living with dementia and their carers we currently work with in England.
“Each of the new sporting memories groups we set up will offer at least 30 minutes of physical activity and provide equipment and tailored training to the group leaders that will help ensure that this can be sustained and additionally. We also want to ensure that our existing groups incorporate 30 minutes of physical activity.
“What is really key for us through this funding is to make strides that will help visualise the benefits of physical activity to our participants, and by doing this hopefully change their attitude towards it.”
The Lottery money comes from Sport England’s Active Ageing fund, which was set up to tackle inactivity in the over 55s.
Research by Sport England shows the number of inactive people is growing as people are living longer, with inactivity among over 55s responsible for as many deaths as smoking. More than a third of over 55s, 36 per cent, are inactive, compared to 26 per cent of the population as a whole.
Leeds Beckett University’s Centre for Dementia Research will be working with Sporting Memories Network and group participants throughout the project to study the impact the approach has on supporting people living with dementia to become more active in their daily lives.
Professor Claire Surr, of the University, said its evaluation would support the Network to develop the project.
She added: “This is going to be a valuable and exciting evaluation to conduct and we are looking forward to working with them on it.”
Mike Diaper, executive director at Sport England said: “Being active is one of the most important things people can do to maintain health and wellbeing as they age. We’re delighted to be supporting Sporting Memories Network with National Lottery funding to help get older adults lead happier and healthier lives.
“We’ll be sharing learnings so successful approaches can be scaled-up or replicated across the country.”
In August the Network was given a treasure trove of photographs 90,000 photographs, documenting decades of sporting moments, from football’s European cups and World cups, to cricket, rugby, ice skating, boxing, from the Reuters News Agency.
It is looking for volunteers to help digitise the images. For more information visit www.sportingmemoriesnetwork.com
What is does
The Sporting Memories Foundation believes that using images of sport and memorabilia can help older people stay connected to their friends and communities, be cognitively stimulated and remain physically active.
The volunteer-led, intergenerational Sporting Memories groups, which take place across Yorkshire and beyond, help people over the age of 50 age well and remain as healthy as possible. They aim to tackle three of ageing’s biggest challenges - dementia, loneliness, and depression.
The Yorkshire Post has been campaigning to raise awareness of the damaging health effects of loneliness since 2014.
The Sporting Memories Foundation has received support from sports stars and celebrities along with numerous sporting bodies including the FA, Premier League, PFA, England Rugby and the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB).