Sports fans in Cumbria who are living with dementia will benefit from a new landmark guide from Alzheimer’s Society.
About the guide
The new dementia-friendly sports club and venue guide is designed to support clubs to make their venues more accessible for people affected by the progressive condition. Giving supporters living with dementia a smooth journey from sofa to stands, the guidance is designed for venues of all sizes to ensure fans with dementia are supported, understood and know where to get help on gamedays.
Alzheimer’s Society has worked alongside people with dementia to draft the guidance, which aims to get venues from all sports and levels to adopt its recommendations, making their facilities and practices dementia friendly. The charity collaborated with clubs that have already implemented dementia-friendly procedures such as Manchester City, Everton, Wrexham, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Brighton and Hove Albion and Swansea.
Carlisle based Peter Jones who lives with vascular dementia, was very involved in the creation of the new guide, using his many years of experience as a football referee as well as his recent experience of dementia to provide valuable insight. He said:
“I have been involved in sport since I was at school and have taken part in many types of sport, whether it be golf, cycling, or football. My son still takes me out to play golf and he looks after me on the course. For over 24 years, I was a football referee and was fortunate enough to officiate at various venues up and down the country. I remember being appointed an official at a School National Cup Final at Goodison Park in Liverpool, where the guest of honour was Sir Bobby Charlton.
“I got to wear the Three Lions on my shirt with the English Schools FA – that was a special moment for me. I would love to be able to go back to watch sport live – I miss the buzz of the crowd and seeing professional sportspeople at the top of their game reminds you of why you became a fan. Just because you have a diagnosis, it doesn’t mean you should stop attending. You may have followed a sport for years, but sometimes the barriers to attending feel too great.
“Some of the challenges I face are accessing the grounds, trying to get back to my seat after going to the toilet, or even trying to stand up and watch what is happening on the pitch. While I love the atmosphere a crowd creates, I wouldn’t feel safe among supporters anymore – I would be afraid for my safety and would find it overwhelming. Imagine going for something to eat at a stadium, but then being unable to remember how to get back from where you came from – or even where you are. Then imagine not knowing who at the game might be able to help you. You feel lost and alone. It is not easy, but I know there are things that can be done.
“I’m pleased that professional sport is coming on board and making a difference for people with dementia to enjoy watching sport again. It will help with our wellbeing, keep us connected to teams we have followed for years, and can also help our carers have a better quality of life too. Sport has always been a big part of my life – please help me and many others to keep it that way.”
The importance of making sports dementia-friendly
A veteran season ticket holder with dementia might feel like they are attending for the first time, every time they visit. That shows why clear and bold signage can help them to better understand and navigate their surroundings.
With short-term memory often impacted, matchday difficulties can include losing tickets, forgetting where their seat is, navigating their way to the ground via public transport, and turning up at the wrong time. Feelings of confusion and disorientation are common, while many with dementia report feeling frustrated asking for food at kiosks as they struggle finding the right words.
Symptoms for people with early-onset dementia can appear as drunkenness, leading to problems in stadiums when stewards misread a situation. For other spectators with dementia, complications begin before match day as they insist using technology is challenging and club websites can be alienating.
“Sports clubs help people affected by dementia retain their sense of purpose, dignity and allow them to maintain a good quality of life. Small changes such as increased signage, offering quiet spaces, changes to ticket policies, seat allocation near accessible facilities and staff training can result in significantly better experiences for spectators. People with dementia are often forced to give up the things they have always enjoyed, such as watching live sport because of inaccessible environments. Sport plays an important role in keeping people connected within their communities, creating new memories or revisiting old ones.”Steve Green (Alzheimer’s Society Area Manager for Cumbria)
Alzheimer’s Society’s Sport United Against Dementia (SUAD) campaign provides hope for future generations through research and is transforming the way sport supports people affected by dementia, so no player, former player or fan faces dementia alone.
The Alzheimer’s Society’s Dementia Friendly Sports Clubs and Venues guide is designed for grounds and stadiums of all sizes, to help make sure all fans are supported, understood and know where to get help on gamedays.“Sport should be unforgettable and have no boundaries. It can provide a universal language for young and old alike. The colours, laughter, camaraderie and emotion – a relationship with sport can last a lifetime. Providing an inclusive and accessible environment for people with dementia is not just about practical changes. It is creating a culture, both inside and outside the organisation.”Steve Green (Alzheimer’s Society Area Manager for Cumbria)