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05 July 2023

Horseracing is in a unique position to make a fundamental difference to people living with dementia, read more…

Matt Hughes-Short has worked across sport, physical activity, and health for 10 years and is passionate about preventing long-term conditions, reducing health inequalities, and improving the link between sport, physical activity, and the health system at every level.

As part of Alzheimer’s Society’s Sport United Against Dementia (SUAD) campaign, Matt works with the sport sector to create guidance and interventions that ensure it can remain dementia friendly. This has included a dementia-friendly guidance publication for sports clubs and venues, supporting Wembley Stadium to become more dementia-friendly, and new sport-specific training for frontline staff.

Here he talks about his work with The Racecourse Association (RCA).

Why is it important for sport to be making itself accessible to those with Dementia?

For people living with dementia, their passion for sport stays long after diagnosis. We often hear from carers or family members that when their loved one is diagnosed with dementia, they have to give up the hobbies and sports they love due to lack of understanding, stigma or inaccessible environments. Sport, however, has the unrivalled ability to inform, educate and make a meaningful difference to people living with dementia.

There are over 900,000 people currently living with dementia in the UK and sport is crucial in keeping them socially active and connected to their communities. Great sport should be unforgettable, which is why it is vital that sport is as accessible as much as possible for people living with dementia. We want to see sports empowering people living with dementia, allowing them to continue enjoying the sports they love right at the heart of the action.

What are the key objectives to the project and how has it been received so far?

The aim of the project is simple: foster an inclusive, accessible and welcoming environment for sports fans with dementia, so they can continue to be at the heart of the action. We’ve worked closely with organisations from multiple sports including the Racecourse Association and the Premier League to bring Alzheimer’s Society’s Dementia Friendly Sports Clubs and Venue guidance to life. We provide organisations across the sporting world with the tools and guidance they need to make their venues dementia-friendly. The response to our work since publishing has been overwhelmingly positive, with organisations across football, horseracing, cricket and rugby all downloading our guidance and utilising our expertise to provide fans a smooth journey from the sofa to the stands.

What opportunity does racing have to contribute to this work?

As one of the longest established spectator sports, horseracing is in a unique position to make a fundamental difference to people living with dementia, now and in the future. The number of people living with dementia in the UK is set to increase to over a million by 2025 and to nearly 1.6 million by 2040. Sporting venues present unique challenges to those living with dementia but now is the time to act to ensure every person with dementia can continue to do the things they enjoy and retain their independence. Together, we can create clubs and venues where fans affected by dementia can attend and enjoy amazing sporting experiences – and stay connected to the sport they love.

We’ve worked closely with the Racecourse Association (RCA) over the last year to identify where we can enhance the accessibility and inclusivity of their racecourses for fans affected by dementia. The RCA’s commitment to fostering an inclusive and accessible environment is incredibly encouraging to witness and is instrumental in ensuring fans continue to be a part of unforgettable racing moments.

As we look to the future, we’re excited to continue working closely with The RCA to identify where long-term adjustments could be made to improve the raceday experience further for fans affected by dementia

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