At Enjoy Football we like breaking down barriers.
Football is a game to be enjoyed by anyone and everyone and there should be no barriers in doing so. Walking Football is a game which we love and rather than limit it to the general aim of blokes over 50 who and I don't apologise here, are generally overweight ( yes I fitted into this bracket), and unfit, we believe that it is a game that anyone an play regardless. So we like to mix it up a bit, go away from the norm and and deliver the game to anyone who wants to play, can play. Whilst this ideology is seen to go mostly against the grain, it works for us.
During on of our recent sessions, I was introduced to a gentleman called Tony. Tony was the subject of a previous blog but to recap, he is 79 and has Dementia. He has been coming to our Lifetime sessions for a few weeks now and frankly he is a great player. I say is because he can still pass and control a ball well but his limitations are that he needs to keep focused on what he is doing. He enjoys playing the game but on occasion doesn't recall who his team mates are or why he is there. The one thing that is clear is that when he plays and it does need constant coaching and encouragement ( and I thank the rest of the players who also help him along) it is with purpose and determination. I conversations afterwards, he talks about teams he played for and days gone by with enthusiasm. Socially it is as important as playing.
Following on, from this, we were invited to do some work with Rosevilla Residential Home in Burtonwood. Rosevilla provides specialist dementia care along with shorter-term respite for elderly people from 65 years and upwards. Given the work we had done with Tony, on an individual level, it was a challenge we welcomed to provide Walking Football to the residents.
I don't profess to have an expertise about Dementia, I'm not medically qualified nor do I have any training as to what care is needed but I do know that engaging people regardless of limits with a game such as football and more precisely walking football can be exceptional beneficial.
I must confess that I was not sure what to expect. I was introduced to the residents and explained what we were about to do. I set up two goals at either end of the room and asked for volunteers. Eventually we had 6. It became very quickly clear that this was a challenge and rather than a traditional game, we changed the entire session onto one just basically moving the ball around the centre of the room encouraging the residents playing to score at either end or just keep passing among themselves. Very soon many of the residents were join in through either taking a turn or from their chairs .
I found my first visit to Rosevilla extremely humbling. Why? Well it appeared that quite a few of the residents had been and fairly recently, quite active, a number of them had clearly played football as the basic skills were still there. Although the enthusiasm to join in was boundless, the flipside was that they could only do it for short periods of time as quite frankly the memory let them down.
What I think we all take for granted is memory and the ability to do things that appear extremely simple.. From working with the residents even for that short time, I found it quite sad really that Dementia takes away these basic skills and changes drastically the person from what they once were.
What I did find extremely positive was the care and support that was being given by both staff who wok tirelessly in difficult circumstances and relatives who, with I assume a great deal of difficulty, have to watch their loved ones change before their very eyes. . I understand that this is a very simplistic view to a debilitating disease but this is my first direct introduction to the open possibility that people who I know and love may suffer in the near future.
So what do Enjoy Football do. We can't cure it, we don't understand why it happens or currently the effects but what we are providing to the residents is a bespoke version of football and hopefully by what we do with our version we can help keep the residents active whilst having fun, which in turn will benefit them both cognitively and physically.
Presently and as far as we are aware, we are the only provider of this service to a residential care home and something we are quite proud of.
We are looking forward to working more with Rosevilla and getting to know more about the residents, their families and indeed the wonderful staff.