How dementia affects men? Professor Geetha Upadhyaya speaks to Cara Sass, a PhD student at the Centre for Dementia Research, Leeds Beckett University. Cara is in the final year of a research project studying the impact of Sporting Memories groups on people living with dementia in the community, focusing in particular on the experiences of men.
Developing dementia can affect a person’s ability to communicate, and in turn impact their confidence in forming and maintaining relationships with other people. Because of this many people living with dementia can begin to spend less time doing the things they used to enjoy. Men are more likely to become isolated than women, especially if they live alone. Many groups exist with the aim of providing support and social opportunities for people with dementia in the community, but they often receive much lower attendance from men. For this reason, initiatives are developing throughout the UK to better understand men’s support needs and offer group support which appeals to them.
Cara Sass explained to me the availability of such groups and the variety of activities they offer in the UK in particular. One such group is the subject of Cara’s ongoing PhD study, which is run by a national organisation, the Sporting Memories Network. Cara described how these groups work, “Sporting Memories run weekly group sessions to enable people to get together and reminisce on their favourite sporting memories, and many also offer some light physical activities and games such as table tennis and boccia. They are free to attend, and run by friendly, trained volunteers.”
Although Sporting Memories groups are open to anyone over 50 with an interest in sport, they are particularly focused on inviting people with dementia, depression and loneliness to combat the effects of social isolation by getting together to talk about sport. Cara discussed the idea behind designing the groups in this way.
“When people reminisce together, this can make them feel an improved sense of wellbeing and can be especially beneficial for people with dementia and their relatives. By framing reminiscence around sport, the aim is to appeal to men because for many, formative moments in their lives are often connected to sporting events.”
Cara is nearing the end of her study into Sporting Memories groups, and has found some interesting early results: “The people who attend Sporting Memories regularly, have noted personal benefits in terms of their mood and well-being, and have benefited from opportunities to meet people in a friendly space. The groups celebrate the skills and the experiences of people by focusing on their sporting interests and experiences, and boost their confidence by celebrating their personal achievements. When relatives, partners or friends join in with the groups they can also gain from sharing with others in similar situations to themselves; community groups such as Sporting Memories can also provide valuable information for families needing to access further social, practical and financial support when coping with dementia.”
“Like many local groups, often people only decide to join a Sporting Memories group if they know someone who already attends. However, regular members consider it an essential part of their week, and often wish they had plucked up the courage to try it sooner. I’d advise anyone with an interest in sport to go along to their local group where they will get a warm welcome from people who share their passion and who won’t judge them if they are living with a condition like dementia”
If you think that you, or someone you know might enjoy a visit to their local Sporting Memories group, why not contact them for a chat and give it a try?
To find out more about Sporting Memories Network, the location of your nearest groups, or enquire about volunteering opportunities, you can visit their website: https://www.sportingmemoriesnetwork.com/
For more information about initiatives to reduce loneliness in older men:
Follow this link to learn about Men’s Sheds, another social enterprise offering practical activities and support for men in the UK and globally: