From Care Homes to the Leisure Centre

Over recent years, Sporting Memories has been working with leisure centres across England to provide a range of new clubs and projects which engage older people within their local community settings.

Earlier this month, we visited Mid Suffolk Leisure Centre in Stowmarket, who alongside launching their own weekly session recently, have also been engaging with care homes in the local community to bring Sporting Memories to residents.

Starting with Sporting Memories through a local project

Our activity with Mid Suffolk Leisure Centre, operated by Everyone Active, was launched as part of a two-phase project to provide Sporting Memories activities for older people in the local community, with a focus on those residing within care home settings.

The first phase involved the team at Mid Suffolk Leisure Centre delivering Sporting Memories sessions for 10 weeks in three care homes locally, providing training along the way for care home staff to enable them to continue the sessions once the trial was over, with the second phase being the launch of a regular weekly club, open to all, at the leisure centre.

Anselm Gurney, Everyone Active’s contract manager at Mid Suffolk Leisure Centre, explains the impact of the project: “This partnership with Sporting Memories has enabled us to connect with a different community locally, bringing new customers into the leisure centre to use our facilities regularly.

“Part of our mission is to get as many people active as possible and that includes engaging with people who don’t find it as easy to be active or have additional barriers to overcome.For example, people living with dementia need specialised offerings and sessions to encourage them to come to the leisure centre.”

The impact of the sessions within the care homes has been positive, with Anselm keen to engage more care homes with the project.

“We had great success with the first phase and the care homes gave fantastic feedback on the Sporting Memories sessions and the positive impact they had on their residents. As far as we are aware, they are all still continuing with the sessions thanks to the training we provided, so there is an ongoing benefit to those residents, which is great to see.

“What we’d like to do is go out to another three care homes in the Stowmarket area and run the project once again.”

Sporting Memories at the Leisure Centre

Following the sessions delivered within the care homes, a Sporting Memories club was launched within the leisure centre, which runs weekly on Wednesdays between 10:15am – 11:45am.

We were invited along to see the session in action with club members all participating in a competitive group game of boccia, as well as having the opportunity to hone their table tennis skills, thanks to Nick, a regular attendee who is also a member of a local table tennis club.

Jo Beales is the session’s facilitator and reflected on the impact it has had since opening earlier this year.

“We’ve only been going for a few weeks and I can already see the light in some of the people’s eyes when they come along and play the sports. You can see that people who haven’t been able to access sport in quite a while are now re-learning skills they had lying dormant and starting to enjoy playing games again.

“For me, that is lovely to see, where people are reconnecting with physical activity and sports that they enjoyed when they were younger. I think seeing that has been one of the most positive aspects of the club so far.”

Jo and the team at Mid Suffolk Leisure Centre are promoting the sessions in the local area and she is encouraging anyone who is interested to attend.

“I would say just give it a go, everyone is really friendly and will help you out to play and try everything on offer. We’ve got such a wide range of activities, so even if we do something which might not be quite up somebody’s street, there will be plenty of other things which might be! We try to vary it so there are plenty of sporting activities on offer over the weeks.”

As our partnership and work with Mid Suffolk Leisure Centre grows from strength to strength and will continue to do so over the coming months, Anselm added his thoughts on the impact Sporting Memories can have within the leisure centre and fitness industry.

“I believe there is a place for Sporting Memories within leisure centres and the activities they provide,” he began. “Everyone knows the population is ageing, and Suffolk in particular is one of those regions where we have the highest ratio of older people in the community, so it is going to become more and more important for services to be provided for older people which are of benefit to them, and particularly for those living with dementia.”

To find out how more about the Sporting Memories session at Mid Suffolk Leisure Centre, please contact Jo Beales via

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