Kirkcaldy date for group which uses sporting memories to combat loneliness & depression

A new Sporting Memories Group is planned for Kirkcaldy with an open day to see what interest there is.
A new Sporting Memories Group is planned for Kirkcaldy with an open day to see what interest there is.

Do you remember when Raith Rovers won the Coca-Cola Cup or were you there when Fife Flyers scooped the British Championship at Wembley?

Sporting victories – or defeats – are often etched on the memories of those who took part or who witnessed them, and reliving the thrill of the game can often trigger a sense of wellbeing and camaraderie.

That is what a national group, the Sporting Memories Foundation Scotland, is hoping to do to help people over 50 in and around Kirkcaldy suffering from dementia, depression or isolation.

It is planning to set up a local Sporting Memories group within Kirkcaldy Rugby Club.

And it is holding an open day at the club within Beveridge Park, Kirkcaldy, on January 22 from 10am-2pm for anyone who would be interested in either attending the group or interested in becoming a volunteer to help lead it.

Sporting Memories clubs are open to any sports fan over the age of 50 to meet and reminisce about playing or watching sport, and to take part in physical activities and accessible sports.

The interest from the open day will determine when the club will start up, but organisers say they hope it won’t be too long after the event.

It will take place on Tuesday mornings from 10.30am-12pm at the rugby club.

The open event will be attended by Michael Mellon from Cardenden, one of the group’s volunteers.

Michael was the only Scottish representative at last year’s Invictus Games in Sydney.

He returned from the Games with three medals, silver with both the sitting volleyball and wheelchair rugby teams and bronze in wheelchair basketball.

Michael (39), a former gunner with the RAF, fractured bones in his leg in an RAF rugby match in 2001.

His injury did not heal properly and resulted in a condition called compartment syndrome which caused bleeding and swelling in the muscles.

This caused severe pain and nerve damage to his left leg, and in 2013 he took the difficult decision to have his lower leg amputated.

He suffered from depression and it was returning to sport, with a specialist wheelchair given to him by the RAF Benevolent Fund, which turned his life around.

Michael will use his own memories to help encourage local people who may also be suffering, whether from depression, dementia or loneliness, to come along and give the group a try.

He said: “Sport has helped me get through some difficult times in my life and I believe it’s a powerful subject that brings people together, providing a space to share stories and build friendships.

“I’m excited to get involved with Sporting Memories and share my passion for sport whilst helping to tackle dementia and loneliness in older people living in Fife.

“I can relate to people who suffer from depression and loneliness, having suffered from both in the past myself which stemmed from my sporting injury and discharge from the Royal Air Force.”

Donna Mackey, partnership manager, added: “This is another exciting development in our aims to support older people across Fife and to connect communities through the power of sport.

“Kirkcaldy has a rich sporting history and we’re excited to bring local people together to share their stories and memories.

“It’s also crucial that we enable more people to be physically active and involved in fun, stimulating activities that help create new and long lasting friendships.

“Our Kirkcaldy open day is an excellent opportunity to meet the Sporting Memories team and find out more about our volunteering roles or how to get involved as a participant.”

Bringing people together to share those magic memories

The Sporting Memories Foundation supports older people living with dementia, depression and loneliness by engaging them in social activities and helping them to recall memories of watching or playing sport.

Alongside the Sporting Memories Network Scotland CIC, its work aims to challenge stereotypical views of ageing, to reduce stigma around issues like dementia and depression, and to help reduce loneliness and enable older people to live well.

Groups are set up in partnership with organisations such as local authorities and sporting bodies that wish to engage with those who are hard to reach in their local community.

It works together across generations to establish effective solutions on how to target and engage older people.

It also provides the training and resources for volunteers and people within these organisations to run groups, making sure they have the knowledge, understanding and skills to deliver meaningful sessions that will benefit participants.