There’s no doubt that sports — whether you’re watching or playing — can illicit great memories. That’s why various dementia-tailored socialization programs around the world are using sports reminiscence therapy to help improve the lives of those with Alzheimer’s, a disease that affects nearly six million people in the United States alone.
The idea of sports reminiscence therapy is to gather people who have dementia in a group setting and encourage them participate in sports-related activities with their peers that trigger memory recall.
For example, in 2009, soccer historian Michael White founded Football Memories in Scotland, which “trains volunteers to spend time with people with dementia who have an interest in football, talking about teams and matches from the past and working with images and memorabilia to stimulate memories.”
As you can see in this clip, participants get a lot out of it, including joy and an improved self-esteem.
In the United States, Michael Ego, a professor of human development and family studies at the University of Connecticut’s Stamford campus, is currently overseeing a study assessing the benefits of a baseball reminiscence therapy at an Adult Day Care Center in the state.
Every two weeks, participants not only watch and listen to old game footage, featuring their favorite players and broadcasters, but they also get the chance to “suit up” and play. They arrive early to warm up, read up on the rules, sing “God Bless America,” and then take swings at a wiffle ball and play infield and outfield during the two-inning game.
“My study is still ongoing – I’m still in the process of gathering data and qualitative assessments from the caregivers,” Ego wrote in UCONN Today. “But the laughter and smiles I witnessed during the wiffle ball game tell me that something’s working.”
Who needs the scientific data to fall in love with what’s happening there?