The Sporting Memories Network is transforming lives in a simple but brilliant way: using the age-old supporters love of chatting about the good old days.
When Tony Jameson-Allen looked out across Royal Birkdale two weeks ago during the Open Championship the past came flooding back.
He remembered days spent running across the dunes as a child, recalled Opens he had attended with his parents, and laughed about the time an old friend caddied for Justin Rose in the 1998 Championship.
It was apt that the location provoked so many memories because Jameson-Allen has not just made them his business, he’s done more than that – they’re his passion.
Across the country there are thousands of elderly people 50 battling dementia, depression and loneliness. Among men these problems have proved especially difficult to combat, but Jameson-Allen, a one-time caddie on the European Tour and psychiatric nurse, along with his colleague Chris Wilkins, discovered that sport was the perfect platform to re-engage the demographic.
They created Sporting Memories Network and over the last ten years what was a small project has blossomed into numerous programmes across the country, using photographs, memorabilia, books and magazines to prompt discussion within groups that has led in turn to remarkable, life-changing experiences for hundreds of sports fans.
Individuals who previously felt social exclusion have discovered a simple chat about their sporting memories with like-minded people improves mood, prompts new friendships and can provoke discussion of the present as well as the past.
Football, cricket and rugby have been key sports in the early years of SMN, with many programmes affiliated to clubs, but there is a new Scottish-based golf initiative in the offing which led to Golf365 meeting Jameson-Allen at The Open and handing over some golf books generously donated by The Raven Bookshop.
Using books such as these the group will starts discussing their favourite golfers of the past, tournaments they remember, shots which they remember watching and maybe even hitting. Previously disconnected men will soon find themselves enthusiastically debating the past.
“Using sport to engage and interest elderly people with memory problems is a great way to help them feel alive again,” says Jameson-Allen. “The benefits to well-being are enormous.”
Further news of the golfing programme will emerge in the near future, but in the mean time the SMN website offers more information of their amazing work and is always ready to accept your golfing stories for the memory bank. Click here to add yours.
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