A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of meeting a guy called Tony.
Tony is 79 years of age and came along with his wife Maureen to our Lifetime walking football session in Warrington. I was pleased that he wanted to start playing again, he is our oldest participant to date and also having Dementia but he is in pretty good shape so why not. However what’s even more awesome is that it didn’t deter him and with Maureen's support he was willing to give it a go off we went .
After the session I had a brief chat with Tony and Maureen and after some reminiscing with them and the other players, it turns out that he played at a decent level back in the day and was, to my pleasure, a keeper, one of the union, an outsider.
He explained that he was looking for some activity to keep his mind focused and the session was exactly what he wanted.
Fast forward to today. We had a weeks break due to holidays so I was pleased to see that Tony had come back. Now I'm not going to pretend that it's an easy ride for him and yes I have his permission to refer to this ( and Maureen's too) but playing with Dementia has it's drawbacks on occasion (I'm not going to draw a debate or suggest that I have any medical knowledge about Dementia but can only I say as I see it), but with constant support and I thank the other players also, he can play and enjoy the game.
Walking Football despite it's knockers and critics can be difficult to play at first even when your a spritely 50 odd let alone at 79 with Dementia. On first appearance it appeared to be a pretty daunting task, but playing with him I found that he still has great movement, skill and vision (and a bloody good sense of humour) and on occasion was on a completely different level to me and by that I mean well higher. It's not that hard, I here some of you say, getting a higher level than me but he was putting passes through gaps and into areas which were perfect that I hadn't but should have seen.
Talking to him and Maureen further today, he told me that he had been diagnosed for 6 years but it is only recently that it has started to take it's toll. this type of activity is not only good for his mind but the social side is just as, if not more important.
I must confess I am quite in awe of his character and determination and this should provide inspiration and a vision of hope for others who are in a similar position never to give up.
From a coaches perspective, it is a challenge but a pleasurable one and the game of walking football has once again shown that it brings down or removes barriers and provides something that everyone can join in with.
Walking football. Our game, your game my game, HIS game.