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West Brom bringing back lifelong fans' memories

8 Jan 2018

An innovative programme by Albion Foundation is giving fans with dementia and Alzheimer's chances to remember

Seventy-eight-year-old Bryan Henn first fell in love with West Bromwich Albion in the 1950s.

"I was coming to West Brom when I was 14, 15 before I went into the army," he says. "I loved it, there's no better place."

Bryan's recollections of the Baggies and his support over the years are clear, but his short-term memory is now deteriorating due to the onset of dementia.

"I can remember all of my past but after I've been talking I won't remember what I've been saying," he says. "It goes out of your brain so quickly. It's a horrible life."

But now the club are helping Bryan, and other sufferers of memory loss, through the Albion Memories Group.

The programme is run by The Albion Foundation, in partnership with Edward Street Hospital, and brings together people with dementia and Alzheimer's so they can talk and reminisce about coming to matches and meeting players.

Approximately 30 patients have been helped by the scheme so far.

Triggering memories

"If you can strike a note and turn on the switch then it brings a lot of stuff back to them that they thought they had forgotten," says Albion Memories facilitator John Homer.

"There's no greater thrill when somebody says, 'I thought I'd forgotten that.'

"All of a sudden, you have picked on a phrase, a match, or turn of events and it just brings it back to life.

"I always like to say what we do is we ... try and open their door and walk into their world and they'll tell us all about it."

To help trigger memories, the Albion Memories Group is held at The Hawthorns, allowing participants to have a view of the pitch as they recount their stories while past and present Baggies players also attend the sessions.

Bryan started attending last year and the programme has made a big impact on his wellbeing.

"Coming up here brings back all of my memories of this place," he says.

"West Bromwich Albion means a hell of a lot to me. There's no way I can thank them enough for what they have done.

"They have, in a sense, kept me alive."

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