Peter, a lifelong football fan and ex-referee, was diagnosed with vascular dementia in 2016. Now an active member of the dementia community, Peter explains why he's such a passionate advocate for dementia-friendly sport.
When I was growing up a Carlisle United player called Sammy Taylor lived in the house opposite to mine, and when he left another player called Frank Large moved in. He held the record for playing in all four divisions of the football league.
He was a centre forward, and when he was running he could have knocked a barn door down! He took me to my first match after I’d been in hospital following an accident.
I was hooked! I still follow them now.
Turning my passion for football into a career
I loved playing football but wasn’t good enough to get into my school team. I played for a Sunday morning team and took an FA refereeing course and exam. I then started refereeing in what they called the Christian Welfare League.
I worked my way up through the leagues and ended up being the fourth official for Carlisle United for the season
That was in the 1970s. I was then an official in the Northern Premier League.
My biggest game was in the FA Cup when Carlisle United played against Liverpool in the late 80s. It was really special.
Peter in his refereeing days, where he worked his way up through the football leagues.
I had to stop over in a hotel, which was strange in your home town! I went into the director’s room at 11am in the morning and remember Denis Law was there with the commentator Peter Jones sat next to him.
I also ran the line in the England schools final in 1991. I got to wear three lions on my shirt, because I was involved in the final. It was an honour. It was at Goodison Park, Everton’s ground, in front of 22,000 people. The guest of honour was Bobby Charlton.
I was a junior referee, so it was a big step up. It was a proud moment for me.
Noticing memory problems after a stroke
After a stroke in 2012 I didn’t experience any problems initially. But after I started a job at McDonalds, I would regularly stand at the counter and forget why I was there.
Eventually, I went to a doctor who did a memory test, then I was referred to Memory Matters at the hospital where I had a scan.
In 2016 at the age of 62 I was diagnosed with vascular dementia. I didn’t believe it at first.
In 2017 I rang the Alzheimer’s Society and got through to the Kendal office. A woman called Judith called me and pointed me in the direction of a dementia café and Singing For The Brain group.
Active in the dementia community
I got involved and after a few months I became a volunteer, which opened up my life.
I am appreciated and treated as a person. Working with Alzheimer’s Society on sporting initiatives, like helping develop the new Dementia Friendly Sport Clubs and Venues Guide, has given me a chance to go and watch live sport again.
Sport was my life for 24 years. But after my diagnosis, going to football matches became a no no.
I can’t stand too many people, and I get confused.
Importance of dementia-friendly sport
I had nobody to take me, and I would have needed someone to go with. I find there are more little things that I need help with now.
If I’m at a football match and I go to the toilet, how would I get back to where I was sitting? I would come back and not be able to remember.
This is where matchday stewards can help you and guide you back to your seat.
Alzheimer’s Society can help by delivering Dementia Friends sessions, and I think that is the way forward in all sports – whether it be rugby, football or golf. I want every club to embrace this to enable me to continue to watch live sport.
I like to go for a walk every day, get the fresh air and see the local wildlife. You meet people, which is really good. You still get treated as a person.
That’s the important thing. They don’t treat me as Peter Jones who has dementia, they treat me as Peter Jones the person.
Sport should be unforgettable
Through our work with sport, Alzheimer's Society is making a difference for all people who, like Peter, are affected by dementia.