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Top doctor praises football clubs for helping fans with dementia

Professor Alistair Burns praised football clubs across England for running community schemes for people with dementia.

Professor Alistair Burns praised clubs including Everton (PA)
Professor Alistair Burns praised clubs including Everton (PA)

By Luke Powell

One of England’s top doctors says community schemes run by professional football clubs for people with dementia will help extend and improve lives.

Professor Alistair Burns praised clubs including Everton, Aston Villa and Derby County for running activities and workshops for people living with the syndrome

And he is encouraging more older people to get involved in activities such as walking football to keep their brains active.

Prof Burns, who is NHS England’s national clinical director for dementia and older people’s mental health, said: “Dementia can lead to social isolation with people feeling disconnected from their communities and families after a diagnosis which is why community schemes like these are so vital in helping people maintain these connections and live rich, active lives.”

The health service said Everton FC’s Pass On The Memories scheme, which is delivered in partnership with Mersey Care NHS Trust, helps about 300 people each year by running sports reminiscence workshops, along with bingo and dancing sessions.

Meanwhile, the club’s Stand Together programme aims to tackle social isolation among people aged over 70 by organising for them to take part in stadium tours and talks on the history of the club.

The English Football League Trust is also piloting a scheme for retirees to meet on a weekly basis and socialise at various football clubs.

Adrian Bradley, head of health and wellbeing at the English Football League, said: “We understand that everyone’s experience of dementia is unique and hence our clubs and charities are helping people to attend matches, are running activity groups, dementia cafes, support groups and reminiscence sessions.”

Eating a healthy diet and exercising – even gentle workouts like walking football– drinking less, not smoking, keeping up your social networks and ensuring your mind stays active can all help Prof Burns

It is estimated that about 676,000 people have dementia in England, with one in three people likely to care for someone with the syndrome at some point in their lives, the NHS said.

Prof Burns said: “There are simple lifestyle changes people can make to reduce their risk of getting dementia.

“Eating a healthy diet and exercising – even gentle workouts like walking football– drinking less, not smoking, keeping up your social networks and ensuring your mind stays active can all help.

“As the NHS long term plan ramps up moves to give people a timely diagnosis for dementia and improve care, football clubs – as the centre of communities and many people’s lives – have an open goal chance to team up with the NHS and improve lives.”

Dementia is a syndrome associated with an ongoing decline of brain functioning, leading to memory loss, thinking speed and mental sharpness.

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