Leeds Rhinos fans take a trip down sport's memory lane to mark Dementia Action Week

Donald Wilkinson and Dorothy Ward at Emerald Headingley with tour guide Paul Daley.
Donald Wilkinson and Dorothy Ward at Emerald Headingley with tour guide Paul Daley.
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Special memories came flooding back for two elderly rugby league fans from Leeds as they enjoyed a champion day out at one of the country's most famous sporting venues.

Dementia sufferer Dorothy Ward, 94, and Donald Wilkinson, 91, who has learning difficulties, are both residents at Berkeley Court care home in Harehills.

They are also loyal fans of Leeds Rhinos, with the advancing years doing nothing to dim their passion for the club.

And so, as part of Dementia Action Week, staff at Berkeley Court arranged for them to have a behind-the-scenes tour at Emerald Headingley.

Care home manager Krzysztof Bialczyk said: “Dorothy and Donald are avid rugby fans and we wanted to make their year by taking them to the Rhinos’ stadium.

“We know that dementia affects short-term memory but visits like this associated with a person’s passion or hobby helps them access many happy memories.

“It might be they won’t remember a conversation or this visit but the positive emotions this creates will remain with them."

Dorothy and Donald were accompanied by guide Paul Daley on their tour of Emerald Headingley, which has recently undergone a multi-million pound redevelopment

The rugby stadium's North Stand had its grand opening at last week's game between the Rhinos and Castleford Tigers, with work on the revamped South Stand being completed earlier this year.

Dorothy and Donald's tour included a visit to the new Emerald Suite, which boasts views of both the rugby and cricket grounds at Headingley.

Dorothy, who has lived at Berkeley Court for three years, said: "My family and I have been season ticket holders for a long time.

"I was excited to see the recently refurbished stand and to get to see the stadium again.”

Donald added: “Leeds Rhinos have made growing old an absolute pleasure. I’ve always been a huge fan of theirs and I’m grateful I get to experience this."

Berkeley Court is part of the Anchor Hanover Group, the largest provider of specialist housing and care in England.

“The number of people living with dementia is growing," said Mr Bialczyk.

"Anchor is leading the way with training its staff so we can help older people live well with the condition."