The Guardian 10th September 2013

A dementia care unit is being built close to Sunderland football club's Stadium of Light. The Roker ward - named after the club's former ground Roker Park - at Monkwearmouth hospital, will provide 14 beds for men aged over 65.

The new unit will replace a ward in Cherry Knowle hospital in Ryhope, which has passed its sell-by date. The ward at Cherry Knowle has been trialling sport as a focus for reminiscence therapy and the results were good enough to convince the ward managers that this was something that should be adopted in the new building.

Finding meaningful ways to connect and engage with dementia patients is always challenging. Football provides an alternative focus for men who are reluctant to join in other group and reminiscence based activities. Memories of players, matches and sports events from 30, 50 or 60 years ago can remain clear when prompted. The Sporting Memories Network travelled to Ryhope and worked with ward staff, giving them ideas about how they could use images of famous footballers and sports stars from days gone by as a trigger for conversation, debate and reminiscence. Those debates and discussions often focus on recalling favourite players, great victories, away trips and the inevitable defeats.