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Do you remember that move?

The power our memories have over our memory is mind-boggling. For people with cognitive impairment, reminiscence therapy is a gift to their memories.

Context (1)

...Whenever someone asks me if the football-based reminiscence project is effective, I think of the cooment Bill (a Scottish footballer suffering from cognitive impairment) made to a university researcher who was evaluating the programme's effectiveness. "Look at this," he said, pointing to his handkerchief, "It's soaked with tears. Tears of joy. ("Football Memories", Alzheimer Scotland).

Let happiness forget no one. What more could anyone ask for? A play, a goal, a final, a victory, a footballer, a stadium... linked to a life. Football emotion and memory. Football generates very intense emotions and therefore almost indelible memories. This is the basis of the "Reminiscence" Football Project, a non-pharmacological therapy programme whose main objective is to stimulate and recover through football those memories associated with childhood youth and maturity in order to help slow down cognitive deterioration in the elderly.

What does the reminiscence programme consist of?   

Do you remember Zamora's goal won the league for Real Sociedad in the 81st? Football is a sport that leaves us with unforgettable moments, even for people who tend to forget.

Thanks to the involvment of the Real Sociedad Foundation, the Spanish Federation of Veteran Footballers' Associations (FEAFV), the Association of Former Real Sociedad Players and our foundation, we can proudly tell you that we have carried out this reminiscence programme in three of our centres. An activity where, through football, elderly people with cognitive impairment have done memory exercises.

There are 12 group sessions whose benefits range from improving memory and creativity, to increasing socialisation, self-esteem and well-being of the elderly and their families. Sounds great, doesn't it?


Aim of the workshops (1)


  • To develop a football-based reminiscence programme aimed at improving the quality of life of people with cognitive impairment and their families, and to test its effectiveness in our cultural environment. A non-pharmacological reminisence therapy for elderly people affected by a different dementia pathologies. 


  • Improve the emotional state, preserve cognition and functionality of poeple with cognitive impairment.
  • To decrease the caregiver burden: to improve the relationship between people with cognitive impairment and their caregiver. 
  • To promote active ageing of people without cognitive impairment collaborating as volunteers.
  • To improve memory: provide opportunities for creativity and increase socialisation through conversation.
  • To increase self-esteem, personal satisfaction, life satisfaction and well-being.

Reminiscence programme. The experience in our Argixao centre.  

In this Real Sociedad reminiscence workshop 12 people participated, of which in the last 3 sessions one of them was absent due to health problems: among the participants there were 2 who were Athletic de Bilbao fans, Real sociedad's rival team. At the end of the reminiscence workshop, each of the participants was given a Real Sociedad scarf and our suprise was that thsese two people did not take it off, despite being Athletic fans.

One of this things that most caught our attention was the enthusiasm with which they waited every Friday to participate in this workshop. At the end of each of the sessions, the general comment was that the time had passed very quickly, and the peculiarity was that people who smoked spend the whole morning without having to go out to smoke. 

One of the things that most caught our attention was the enthusiasm with which they waited every Friday to participate in this workshop. At the end of each of the sessions, the general comment was that the time had passed very quickly, and the peculiarity was that people who smoked spent the whole morning without having to go out to smoke.

The great surprise of the reminiscence workshop has been that one of the participants has been improving a little more every Friday, showing us his interest and knowledge of football, so far he is one of those who has obtained the most points in this workshop, according to Mitxel Loinaz. 

The trip to Zubieta was one of the most significant days for them, one of the participants had played football and had not seen a football pitch for a long time; as we got off the bus and saw the training pitch the expression on his face changed, smiling all morning and commenting with the rest of the group about the trainning (on a normal day in his life he spends most of the time dozing off and has to be stimulated ir order to get a response, as his cognitive deterioration is advanced).

One of the most positive aspects of the rmeiniscence workshop has been the stimulation of cognitive functions (attention, memory, language, executive functions, etc.)

Jesus M. had not been looking forward to anything for some time, but as the sessions progressed his son told us that he had seen a very positive change in his father's mood and that he was looking forward to Fridays.

To see the positive impact the workshops have had on people's wellbeing is truly unique.


Reminiscence programme. The experience of the dynamiser - Mitxel Loinaz.    

My experience with the workshops is very rewarding from the beginning to the end of the workshop. It was a satisfaction to see the positive evolution, from my point of view" of the participants. On the first day (the day of the presentation and explanation of the content of the workshop) what surprises you the most is to see the faces of uncertainty and surprise of the participants. After all, it is something different for them.

When you tell them that workshops lasts 12 weeks (3 months) you start to see faces, that if they spoke they would say..., "fuck so long", but when it finishes those same faces end up saying, "it's finished already? When are we going to do another one?".

The people in charge of the Matia centres where I have had the opportunity to be a facilitator have often told me that on the day of the workshop, some participants sit down in the room where the workshop is held 45minutes/1 hour before the start of the workshop. This is an indication that they like it, a person would not wait 1 hour sitting down, showing interest and wanting to know new things.

Of all the days that make up the planning of the workshops, for me the most special days are the 3 extra days, which, because of their special character, I think make them feel even more important:

  1. Visit from a legend. A Real legend comes to see them (Gajate, Bixio Gorriz, Roberto López Udarte, Zamora, Satrustegui, Santi Idígoras, Arconada). This footballer gives them dedicated photos and seeing their faces and the sparkle in their eyes is priceless. Many of them remember when they used to go to the stadium to see their idols.
  2. Visita to the traning session.  A bus trip to Zubieta is organised exclusively for the participants and after training the players go up to the stands to take photos with them.
  3. Visita to the Real Arena stadium and museum. The trip is organised for them again. They see the trophies of the 2 leagues, the Super Cup and the Copa del Rey, historical photos and listen attentively to our historian Iñaki Mendoza and even ask him questions showing their interest in the history of Real. Then there are the family intimacies of each participant with the delivery of photographs. These family photographs are provided by themselves or by the families themselves and with them they remember their parents, siblings, cousins...etc., they are very nice movements.

Another tool we use in the workshops is the book of life. In this book, the children go over their life in broad strokes, filling it in themselves or with the help of a family member or member of the centre, attaching photographs. This support is key to working on memories.

Although everything in these workshops is positive, there is also a bittersweet part, the farewell. Bitter because of the sad faces at the end of the workshop and sweet because of the relationships and memories that we have experienced throughout the process. They stimulate memories and I generate my own with them. Here I narrate some of them:

  • Jose Augusto told us that he was a security guard at the Ku discotheque in Donostia and that he remembered how he used to play jokes on the players of the time (the champions), forbidding them to enter.
  • Justi told us that he was related to Perico Alonso.
  • German... who is from Athletic, didn't give us any play for the Real-Athletic rivalry.
  • Tere, is the aunt of the former Real masseur Julen Masach during Denouex's time in the 2003 runners-up spot.
  • Asun, is a crack, she has a whole room full of photos, scarves etc.... of Real, and of course, she even tuned the wheelchair.

In summary I can tell you that of course there is evolution for the better, some more than others, but in all the workshops I have done the evolution of the people has always been for the better. If there is one thing I can take from all of them, it is that there are people who 5 minutes before can't remember the name of their children and then they are able to tell me the names of the players of the team they are a fan of in a photo from 1946.

This is what reminiscence workshops are all about! We share this video of when we carried out the programme in our Rezola centre.



(1) Font: https://www.futbolistasfeafv.com/wp-content/files_mf/dossierpresentacionfeafv2017.pdf

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