“Johann Cruyff was right when he said that football is a game you play with your mind, and sports of any kind has a unique power to keep the brain going.”
So says NHS England Clinical Director for Dementia, Alistair Burns. And according to him, well backed up by research, there is a benefit for older people to watch classic matches and sporting events.
So for us locally it could range from major feats such as Brian Lara’s record-breaking 375 or 400, his 153 against Australia or Shivnarine Chanderpaul’s match-winning innings with a last-ball six to beat Sri Lanka in 2008. If you are a football fanatic, T&T’s 1-0 win over Bahrain, the 0-0 draw with Sweden or even the 1-0 loss to the United States in 1989 despite it being one of the saddest days in local sporting history, all have positive effects decades later.
The physical benefits of playing football and other sports are well-known, the NHS’ leading dementia expert is encouraging older people, particularly anyone with dementia, to watch replays of sporting events as a way of improving mental health and wellbeing.
Burns says that the power of sport can stimulate emotion which can be revived many years after the event.
Emotional memory, which is one of two main types of memory in the human brain, can be more powerful than memory for personal events, so as people in later life relive exciting or tense moments, this can stimulate memories, potentially strengthening brain activity.
Sport unites communities and generations, it stirs the soul and can reawaken powerful emotions. Every week we witness the positive impact recalling golden moments of great sporting moments has on the physical and mental wellbeing of our group members, many of whom live with dementia,” said Tony Jameson-Allen, Co-founder of Sporting Memories, the world's first charity dedicated to sports reminiscence and physical activities. "These great moments can bring back wonderful, positive memories, that can be used to unite generations to tackle three of the biggest challenges facing an ageing population; dementia, depression and loneliness.”
So watching a replay of Ato Boldon’s silver medal run at the Sydney Olympics, or Hasely Crawford’s gold medal finish in ’76 all have positive effects on the mind. And what does it really do to you? Re-watching classic sporting events can keep the brain stimulated by triggering specific emotional memories. There is a definite positive link between watching classic football matches and keeping the mind active.
“For people in old age and those living with dementia, memorable sporting events provide a connection with the past, prompt conversations and improve health,” Burns added.
If you think it’s just my advice, here’s more confirmation from actual experts. Research shows that conjuring nostalgia by watching old movies or matches or listening to the best songs of the 70s,80s and 90s is an effective way to cope with stress and anxiety. It can lift people into better moods, boost confidence and inspire a sense of optimism, said Dr Wing Yee Cheung, an associate professor in psychology at the University of Winchester in England who studies nostalgia.
Such is the power of the beautiful game or another sport, that, for so many of us, special moments in our lives and treasured memories we hope to keep forever are defined by football and cricket. I engaged in these viewings quite often these days. Caribbean Cricket - the vintage collection and the best of Windies Facebook page both do a great job of revisiting some of the finest moments in cricket. There are so many matches I saw live at the Queen’s Park Oval in the late 80s and 90s that are available to view on the page and it takes me right back in time and in a way settles my mind to take on tomorrow.
According to Chris Wilkins, the co-founder of Sporting Memories, the opportunity to reminisce with others is a definite health booster.
"The most important thing is actually building up their emotional confidence by creating activities that are really engaging, that tap into their real interests and passions. Because then you create positive conversations and fun and banter around memories," he stated. "And because people with dementia are able to tap into those more vivid longer-term memories they can still recall everybody who was in the team, the first game they went to watch, how they got to the game – so it actually helps them to communicate in the everyday. It builds up their confidence because they’re able to still communicate with confidence around a subject that they know and love.”
"When you start laughing again, joking with people, or having people listen to you then you feel better and might feel more up for taking part in other things. You can’t turn back that clock or improve people’s memories per se but it is about people being able to live happier, more independent lives for longer because you are not on a spiral of decline by living better with it," Wilkins added.
"We all have our time machines. Some take us back, they're called memories. Some take us forward, they're called dreams." - Jeremy Irons
Shaun Fuentes is the head of TTFA Media. He was a FIFA Media Officer at the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa and the 2013 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Turkey. The views expressed are solely his and not a representation of any organisation. email@example.com.