In just one example of how our Community Trust have helped promote a Level Playing Field across football this year, here is the tale of Peter Hardy and how we have helped him cope with dementia.
"We first met Peter back in 2016 with his wife Jean when they attended a 10-week programme at the Trust in partnership with 'Friends of The Elderly'. The purpose of the sessions was to target those over the age of 50 who were at risk of being socially isolated.
After the programme had finished, the Trust decided to continue 'The Football Friends' group, as it is now known, on a monthly basis. In these monthly sessions, the group would meet for two hours in the club's Players’ Lounge to have refreshments and a chat with their peers.
The group, over time, has grown to include 14 people who regularly attend and has welcomed guest speakers such as the club's historian to come and give a talk to help rekindle some glorious memories of supporting the Royals.
Peter and Jean have been regular attendees to the group, becoming favourites with the staff and people attending due to their positive outlook on life.
Peter over the last 12 months has unfortunately developed dementia and it has progressed at quite a rapid rate. This has left Peter at times feeling confused and frustrated with what is going on around him.
Despite this Peter, alongside his wife Jean, would continue to carry on with life the way it was before the dementia diagnosis. All his life, Peter has been a keen sportsman especially with golf and football. He and Jean are Season Ticket holders at Reading and attend every home game whilst trying to attend as many away games as they can.
Peter’s other passion is golf. He is a former Chairman of English Schools' Golf Association and has been part of the youth development of golf in this country for many years.
Alongside this he has continued to play golf himself. At the age of 83, he has recently joined the English Disabled Golf Association to still play a few rounds of golf when he can and is well enough to do so.
When the UK was put into lockdown due to COVID-19, Peter seemed to cope ok in the first few weeks because he was able to pay more attention to his garden. Being a keen gardener, he was able to concentrate on his garden and shut out the world outside.
However, the next few weeks became frustrating for Peter as being in lockdown meant that he could not go and watch the Royals, he could not play golf and he could not come to see his friends at the 'Football Friends' group at the stadium.
This had a negative effect on Peter’s mental health. “He can get really down and feel quite low at times and this seems to have an affect on his memory which can lead him to getting quite upset and frustrated," Jean explained.
"Being surrounded by the same four walls all the time and not being able to go out and do what he loved upset him a great deal.”
Throughout lockdown, the Reading Football Club Community Trust team have called the Football Friends group every week to chat with them and to see if we could help them answer questions they might have about COVID 19 or the lockdown.
Once lockdown was eased and we were able to meet in groups of six outside, a number of the Trust's members of staff volunteered to meet up with Peter at local golf courses to have a socially-distanced game of golf with him.
Over a period of weeks, our Trust coaches would organise a golf afternoons with Peter to give him a few hours of golf and he was able to socialise with those members of staff and chat away to them like he enjoyed so much before lockdown.
“When we first met up with Peter, going round the golf course, you could see he was a bit down about the situation we all find ourselves in," said Dan Rook, the Trust's Disability Officer.
"But after a few holes the smile came back, he was telling stories and you could see he was enjoying himself. It is also very important to know that whilst we are out with him every week, we are also giving Jean a few hours of respite that she needs.”
Peter would come home from each game happy and start planning for the next game of golf.
“Seeing the lads from the Trust gives me something to look forward to each week and forget about what’s going on," Peter said. "Also, the fact that they all enjoy golf as much as I do its great...I even get my own golf caddie in Dan which is a bonus!”
The Community Trust team will continue to meet up with Peter and support Peter and Jean through the changes they are having to make due to the challenges they face in the future.