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'Watford's dementia support is a lifeline'

3 Sep 2021

How Watford's Golden Memories programme is having an impact on local people such as former player Walter Lees

Every week people in Watford with mild and moderate dementia head to Vicarage Road to attend Watford FC's Golden Memories, one of the highlights of their week.

People such as former Watford player Walter Lees. 

"For Walter it is the centre of his life," says Walter's partner June Casey. "We end up dancing and singing and you go home feeling that was a really nice day. And you know you have another one to look forward to next week."

Golden Memories is delivered by the Watford FC Community Sports and Education Trust in partnership with the Watford Museum.

Magic moments

The programme, funded by the Premier League and the Professional Footballers' Association, uses a host of club memorabilia and magic moments to stimulate the senses and evoke personal memories.

Weekly sessions involve music, dancing, exercises and games as well as visits from former players to give the guests and their carers an opportunity to socialise in a safe and familiar environment.

"If it wasn't for the team, I would be stuck in the house," says Lees, who played for Watford over eight years in the 1960s and 1970s. "I really appreciate it. I don't know if they realise the goodness they are doing for people in our situation."

It isn't just those with dementia who benefit from such programmes. 

"It's a lifeline to people with dementia but also to their carers," says Casey. "Walter has begun to remember people's names, he's got to know people and he's just brighter."

Club support

Golden Memories is part of the work the Premier League and its clubs carry out in local communities to support and engage with people who have dementia.

The Premier League is part of Sport United Against Dementia and is working in partnership with Alzheimer's Society to help create dementia-friendly clubs, while also raising awareness of preventative measures that people can take to support their wellbeing.

"Often people with dementia feel very vulnerable, they feel forgotten, they feel lost," says Hannah Foster, Watford CSE Trust older adults project officer.

"Coming here, they are treated like guests because then can then feel part of something special."

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