Alex Dickson is a longstanding volunteer with the Big Hearts Football Memories club that is closely associated with Heart of Midlothian FC in Edinburgh. She got involved after seeing an article advertising the scheme in the Hearts’ programme seven years ago and has been helping the group ever since.
“It’s an enjoyable and very rewarding volunteering opportunity, you don’t need particular skills or experience and you can really make a difference.”
Having worked with the club since its infancy, Alex has seen its membership grow and develop, and also observe the positive impact it has on those who attend.
“I love how much the group has grown over the years, there are now so many people who come along and benefit,” she said.
The increase in membership has meant that many are able to enjoy the activities and the benefits are not just limited to those taking part. The loved ones who take family or friends to the group enjoy seeing them relaxed and happy.
Alex recalls: “One gentleman’s grandson told me about how his grandad would be ready to go, sitting at the window waiting for him to pick him up and bring him to the group. I know that the women who bring their husbands and brothers also benefit from the group both by seeing the members relaxed and happy and by the camaraderie they build up with the other wives and volunteers.”
Although the group has grown in size, Alex has still been able to develop strong bonds with all who attend.
“I tend now to sit with the same gentleman each month and if he is there before me, I see him looking for me as I come in. It’s touching to know I have registered somewhere with him,” Alex adds.
“It’s great to see the smiles on all the faces as they joke and argue about who are the better players and their memories of why.”
Football Memories allows its members to get lost in nostalgia and conversation. Alex advises that her members enjoy naming old players from pictures and a popular activity is naming the ‘team of the session’ which sparks debate around who are the better footballers and why.
She notes that often, it’s easy to forget that the participants are living with dementia as they chat about past recollections. While lockdown has put a hold to normal proceedings, work within the group has continued in other forms with the Big Hearts staff sending out newsletters and photos to members as well as making phone-calls so they know they are not alone, and Alex enjoys writing to some of the individuals who struggle with technology.
“The gentleman I write to is excited that Scotland is doing so well. Once we are back to having the group sessions in person, it will be great to chat about Scotland’s achievements as a team.”
Scotland’s recent success has brought much excitement to these exchanges and both the volunteers and the members are looking forward to getting together to discuss the national team at UEFA EURO 2020 once it is safe to do so.
“I think the fact that some of the members have been coming to the group as long as I have says what a positive effect the group has on their lives.”
PICK YOUR OWN DREAM TEAM!
To mark Football Memories place as an official legacy project of UEFA EURO 2020 Glasgow, a special commemorative deck of cards has been produced to support the groups around Scotland.
You can now select your very own Legends line-up from across the decades! Visit our Dream Team picker page, submit your choices and share your line-up on social media!
Check out the Legends Gallery to see all players chosen across the 60 years by both Team United and the Football Memories groups.
European Legends is one of the Scottish FA’s legacy projects for UEFA EURO 2020 ensuring that the reach and impact of the tournament extends as far and as deeply as possible around the country. Read more about the launch of the Football Memories European Legends Reminiscence Cards here.