Recalling Our Sporting Memories

Maybe it was Bobby Moore hoisting the Jules Rimet Trophy aloft on that famous day at Wembley in 1966? Virginia Wade’s triumph at Wimbledon on the Queen’s Silver Jubilee or Sir Jackie Stewart racing to a Formula One World Championship?  We all have some great memories of watching or playing sport. Britain has a proud sporting history and heritage, we claim to have the home of cricket, golf, rugby and football, we are pretty good at winning gold medals too nowadays. Chris Wilkins, founder of Sporting Memories, shares with us his passion for sporting reminiscence and the power that a shared love of sport can bring.

Tapping in to that rich sporting heritage, be it watching our heroes in great triumphs, or looking back on our own sporting careers, can have a positive impact on our own wellbeing. Three clear elements to living well and ageing well involve remaining connected; to our families, friends and communities, being physically active and being mentally stimulated, through learning, reading, conversation etc.

The Sporting Memories Network, a social enterprise founded by Chris Wilkins and Tony Jameson-Allen, uses peoples’ sporting memories to promote mental and physical wellbeing in people over 50. Sporting Memories Network engage with communities to establish volunteer-led, intergenerational activities in partnership with sports clubs, libraries, museums, housing associations and care environments. Weekly groups are established for sports fans to come together to recall tales of great victories and of course, the inevitable defeats we all endure as sports fans.  The groups are open to anyone over the age of 50. Any health or social issues are secondary; a passion for sport is our only requirement. Images, film, commentary and memorabilia immediately sparks conversation, debate, sharpens the mind. Many remarkable personal stories have emerged.

From an initial simple concept of using some iconic images of sporting greats to help stimulate memories, we now work with hundreds of partner organisations and volunteers to provide safe, fun and friendly environments where older people, including those living with dementia, can find their voice once more, rediscover the sports they once loved, make new friends and share problems or concerns with their peers.

The Network has worked with sports historians and older sports fans to create an amazing array of resources to help trigger the memories of any fan. The A5 size Replay Sport Cards series cover multiple sports, stars and moments in history. Spirit of the Games contains images of great Olympians, Memories of 66 not only covers all the teams competing in the 1966 World Cup but an additional pack includes images to trigger conversations on music, fashion, TV, films and transport.

Rekindling memories of the old Saturday evening sports paper, The Sporting Pink is published each week and sent out to the groups. It contains old reports, pictures and includes everyone’s favourite competition, ‘Spot the Ball’. A brand new comprehensive training package for care environments will be the next addition to the line up in 2017.

Meanwhile stars from the world of sport, music and TV have lent their support to the work. Olympic Legends Sir Steve Redgrave, Katherine Grainger and David Weir, along with a host of racing drivers, footballers, cricketers and rugby players have all shared their own favourite memories from their careers. These can be enjoyed along with thousands of other memories on the free Replay Sporting Memories App. You can add some of your own whilst browsing!

Sporting Memories Network was voted Best Football Community Scheme at the Football Business Awards, Best National Dementia Friendly Initiative and recognised by Nesta as one of the top 50 New Radicals in Britain in 2014. Sporting Patrons include Adrian Bevington, Mark Blundell, Paul Hawksbee, Guy Mowbray, Bernie Slaven & Tamara Taylor, and ambassadors include Alistair Griffin, Baroness Heyhoe Flint OBE, Dr Ian McPherson OBE & Paul O’Neill.

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