CITY Community Trust, Exeter’s leading health and wellbeing charity, welcome the findings from the University of Exeter on their research into our Sporting Memories group.
The study has produced some excellent findings on the effectiveness of the programme, and highlights the tangible differences that the programme has made to a number of local older men.
Set up in September 2017, the Sporting Memories group have been meeting weekly at Exeter City’s St James Park to discuss things like historical sporting moments, personal sporting achievements, as well as topical issues inside and outside of sport.
The main goal behind the initiative is to give support to men over the age of 50, who may be suffering from loneliness or social isolation, as well as foster wellbeing and improve mental health.
The programme seeks to give older men the chance to be part of a social group in a structured and regular manner and give them an escape from everyday life.
A study commissioned by the University of Exeter has found some positive results among the group, and CCT are encouraged by what the university has found.
A significant part of the study looks at whether member’s knowledge and memory had improved after regularly attending sessions.
Participants, who remain anonymous within the study, can be quoted as saying: “My wife sent me to the doctor about memory problems. But since coming to this group she often says to me when I come home on a Wednesday, that my brain is working quicker.
“I find that it (my brain) works a lot better after Wednesday morning here too. I am also in a better mood. My vocabulary skills are better, I don’t stop in mid-sentence having to think about what I am going to say next. This is something my wife notices. She says I am much happier”
The group recently watched Exeter City's first team train, and thoroughly enjoyed meeting and talking to the players.
Another also added: “What amazed me the first time, was the amount of knowledge of sport that people who are suffering with Alzheimer’s still have. Their long-term memory is fantastic.”
The study also revealead that: “Depression affects 22% of men and 28% of women aged 65 or over, and it affects 40% of people living in care homes, and that 85% of older people with depression receive no help at all from the NHS.”
With that in mind, CCT is pleased that the participants are feeling a benefit through coming along to the sessions.
The study has also highlighted the benefit of having a social aspect to the group in order to prevent or significantly reduce loneliness.
Being lonely can cause significant health deficiencies, as the study suggests: “Feeling lonely can increase blood pressure and risk of cardiovascular diseases. It can also elevate cortisol and stress levels which weakens the immune system, impair sleep quality (which causes memory problems) leading to negative effects on metabolic, neural and hormonal regulations, and heighten feelings of depression, anxiety, and increase vulnerability.”
“It is a lot harder for men of that generation to talk about their emotions,” explains an individual.
“But in this group, they are extremely open. I have seen people quite close to tears talking about stuff, and other people listening quite close to tears, because it brings back memories. They will often talk about family, past family members, situations at work, in a way that I wouldn’t have expected.
“It’s almost like flood gates open when they walk into that room and they talk about a subject and it all comes out in a really productive way. By doing this group, hopefully we can get men to talk about themselves a bit better so they are actually talking about it rather than internalising it.”
CITY Community Trust would like to thank the University of Exeter for the work they have carried out, and are excited at the prospect of inviting more people to the Sporting Memories group as we continue to make a difference to the health and wellbeing of people across Exeter and the greater Exeter area.