Rugby re-runs could help stave off dementia

Scotland v England Five Nations 1990 at Murrayfield - Tony Stanger celebrates the final 13-7 score.
Scotland v England Five Nations 1990 at Murrayfield - Tony Stanger celebrates the final 13-7 score.
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Watching re-runs of David Sole leading Scotland to Grand Slam victory over England at Murrayfield could help older people stave off dementia.

Professor Alistair Burns, NHS England’s director for dementia, said watching classic rugby matches such as the 1990 encounter could keep the patients’ brains active, stimulate memories and improve mental health.

His comments come as the opening ceremony and first match of the 2019 Rugby World Cup kicks off today, with nations across the globe competing to win the Webb Ellis Trophy.

Prof Burns said: “For people in old age and those living with dementia, memorable sporting events provide a connection with the past, prompt conversations and improve health.

“Watching classic games and reliving tense moments can stimulate powerful emotional memories which can be revived many years after the events and strengthen brain activity. Helping people live well into old age and manage with dementia are key parts of the NHS Long Term Plan and with the NHS diagnosing a record number of older people with dementia this year, it’s vital we all do what we can to keep our brain active and social networks alive.”

There are 850,000 people with dementia in the UK, with numbers set to rise to over a million by 2025.

Some 70 per cent of people in care homes have dementia or severe memory problems.

Tony Jameson-Allen, co-founder of Sporting Memories, which helps older people recall memories of watching or playing sport, said: “We’re delighted to see Professor Burns and NHS England covering this topic at the start of another major sporting event.

“We hope families will enjoy watching the game together and take the chance to discuss favourite moments of previous Rugby World Cup tournaments.”