Medway Council launches Sporting Memories club after £9,800 grant to provide activities for older people

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A sports club suitable for people with dementia aimed at combating the loneliness of the elderly has been launched.

In the second of our series of articles on Our Golden Generation, journalist Temi Adedeji discovered more.

Sport England have awarded Medway Council £9,800 to fund a special program at the Strood Sports Centre.

Sessions take place every Monday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., with the aim of making older people more active and giving them new opportunities for socialization. The schedule of senior sports sessions is available on the Medway Council website.

Deputy Chief Authority Cllr Howard Doe said: “What we’re doing here is starting a new sports memory group to take root at Medway.

“What we’re trying to do is tackle social isolation and make people feel that even though they’re older, they still have a lot to contribute to society and we want them to come back.

“They have a very good opportunity there to enjoy the session, where they feel comfortable and can do some light exercise which makes them more resistant to the disease they may already have.

“We want to show them that they are valuable as residents of Medway and that we want them to start making new friendships.

Councilor Doe said the new club will be a great opportunity to socialize
Councilor Doe said the new club will be a great opportunity to socialize

“We want to get them back up and running after a long Covid winter – everyone’s been pretty locked down actually and fed up with themselves.

“That’s the whole message, getting people active again and moving them forward and making sure they’re all having a really good time.

“I think that’s very encouraging. We’ve only just started and it may have been very difficult to get him started, but that’s not the case. It shows a demand for that.

“I am delighted that we have received funding from Sport England to launch this new club.

“We know that during the pandemic many older residents may have been sheltered and we hope the Sporting Memories club will encourage them to become more active and reduce loneliness.

The group playing badminton
The group playing badminton
Simon Puttock, Instructor at Medway Sport
Simon Puttock, Instructor at Medway Sport

“I encourage residents to come to the club to find out more.”

Some of the activities people can try include badminton, table tennis, and bocce.

Simon Puttock, 59, a fitness trainer at the Strood Sports Centre, said: “As we get older we need to exercise, we need to increase flexibility, especially balance.

“Those are the two things that diminish with age. By compacting these two, you strengthen the bones, help the heart, and the health benefits are endless.

“It’s something we should all be doing, we’re all going to get there [old age]; it should be a continuous thing.

“With Covid, when everyone was locked down, the number of people with dementia was increasing because people weren’t socializing, so these clubs are ideal for that.”

The bowling group
The bowling group

Samantha Villanueva, 49, is the Activities Coordinator at Amherst Court Nursing Home in Chatham. She helps bring people to the sessions, she said: “These events really help because after Covid the locals got really scared and they couldn’t get out.

“We still have to be very careful in the care home because people are vulnerable.

“Now everything is slowing down, we need places like this so that they can find faith again and not be afraid when they go out and for the community to support the elderly in this transition, because it is always something that affects their lives.”

Pam Bessell is 78 and loves swimming and playing badminton. She said: “I came to see older people like me. I still love sports and I hope they still love sports too.

Pam Bassell, who does not have dementia but came to offer her support
Pam Bassell, who does not have dementia but came to offer her support

“It was a perfect opportunity to come and see what was going on, because a lot of able-bodied older people don’t lend themselves to these things.

“It’s been fun, getting to know people, talking to them, finding out what they look like and what they don’t like.

“I tried badminton well. They were a little nervous at first, but they really seem to enjoy it.

“If you don’t use it, you lose it. I’ve found teaching the elderly to swim works wonders.”

Pam said she understands some of the lonely times older people go through. She said: “I have this problem, no one to walk with sometimes, then I call a friend of mine and say ‘do you want to come for a walk?

The group will meet every Monday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
The group will meet every Monday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

“Older people also need younger people in their lives, rather than always being with older people, as that can be intimidating at times.

“So if you have younger people in your life, like caregivers and people who help them, that’s much better.

“Stay active, stay focused, find something to do every day, rather than sitting around and watching boring TV, and even if you just do a little gardening, or talk to your neighbors a little , or that you invite someone over for a cup of coffee, just to keep busy.”

Simon Mclean, 50, is care operations manager for Avante Care and Support, which looks after more than 1,000 older people through nursing homes and dementia care. He said: “As an organization I think it’s really important that we engage with our local communities.

Simon Mclean of Avante Care and Support
Simon Mclean of Avante Care and Support

“With Avante we were able to support today by bringing residents and our teams to support the Sporting Memories club, so we are very happy about that.

“The long-term goal for us is to be part of the local communities, bringing people back out of our services, which after pre-Covid was really important.

“And for that to have good well-being and a healthy and happy life.”

In yesterday’s Golden Generation feature, we explored what it was like to live with dementia.

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Richard V. Johnson