Exciting news on a new form of reminiscence therapy is coming out of Europe, and we are closely monitoring developments to add new options to our already extensive treatment program.
Millions of people experience dementia, and you can rest assured that here at Kensington Place Redwood City, we’re staying on the cutting edge of beneficial therapies. We’re always looking to add to our menu of therapies to help improve the quality of life of our residents who are affected by memory loss.
Sports Reminiscence Therapy is on the Horizon
For reasons not fully understood, nearly two-thirds of the people with memory loss are women. The most likely explanation is that women tend to live, on average, five years longer than men. This increases the likelihood of developing dementia.
For that reason, memory loss programs have often been centered primarily on women. However, a new program primarily focused on men with Alzheimer’s Disease and other dementias was launched in Scotland in 2009 titled Football Memories. Of course, in Scotland, as elsewhere in Europe, “football” refers to what we in America know as soccer.
It’s been used in similar fashion to other reminiscence therapies, as a socialization program aimed specifically at sports fans. And since so many men are sports fans – soccer fans, in the case of Europe – the program is being aimed primarily at men.
It focuses on getting groups of men together to reminisce about soccer, but it can easily be extended to include any popular sport. Here in the US, that can be baseball, basketball, American football, golf, or even the Olympics. Pilot projects on baseball reminiscence therapy began in 2013, and are slowly gaining in popularity.
Adults with dementia, as well as caregivers, family members, and volunteers, meet in a group on a regular basis, to discuss popular moments and events in a given sport’s history. It may even include listening to old radio broadcasts or watching videos of popular sporting events.
Why and How Sports Reminiscence Therapy Works
At the present time, there is no cure for memory loss. But different therapies have been found to be effective at stimulating recall in people who have the condition. For just a few minutes or even an hour a day, reminiscence therapy can help stimulate memories of significant events from the past.
Memory loss tends to be most acute with short-term memory. But long-term memory can often be recalled more easily because significant events in the past have been reinforced by time. A person who, for example, may not remember his own child’s name today, may still have the recollection of the day she was born.
The time in life from the teens through the 20s seems to be the period of deepest memory retention, perhaps because it’s a time of a large concentration of significant events with pleasant associations. This time in life has sometimes been referred to as the reminiscence bump, referring to a time in life with a particularly significant concentration of pleasant memories.
And so it is with sports reminiscence therapy. A combination of casual conversation centered around the presentation of a major sporting event from the past, such as a particularly significant Super Bowl or World Series, could stimulate memory recollection.
As those memories come back, interaction with other participants opens up and expands. This leads to not only stimulating long-term memory, but also to increased socialization with others. This combination is also an excellent therapy to deal with the depression that often comes with memory loss.
Actual participation in a sport has also found to be an effective part of sports reminiscence therapy. For example, people known to have had a passion for baseball might be given the opportunity to play whiffle ball, playing a limited game in a safe setting.
Our Reminiscence Program at Kensington Park Redwood City
Other reminiscence therapies have long been a specialty at Kensington Park Redwood City, and we consistently incorporate the principles described above.
Sports reminiscence therapy programs are still in the developmental phase, and we’re keeping an eye on their progress for potential incorporation into our own program.
In the meantime, we offer similar therapies through opportunities like fitness classes and trips to the golf driving range. The basic concept is to get residents involved in physical activities, particularly those they may have participated in earlier in life.
These programs work in concert with other alternative therapies, such as music and art appreciation. Bringing people together to participate in an activity can stimulate both long-term memories and greater socialization with others.
Working to help persons with memory loss is what we do every day. We’re always looking to add to our programs, and will continue to monitor developments within our industry.