Football lessens strain on health service

Football clubs over the country are celebrating the success of a unique initiative that is having a major impact in improving the health and quality of life for older people.

The research coincides with UK Older People’s Day 2011 that takes place this Saturday (1 October). This year’s theme is getting and staying active in later life – an issue that the Extra Time programme is addressing across the country.

The purpose of this theme is to encourage people to be active and raise awareness of the benefits that physical, social and mental activity brings.

The Extra Time programme uses the ‘power of football’ to engage over-55s and provide regular sport and social activity at 30 professional football clubs. It is jointly-funded by the Football Foundation and Sport Relief, who developed it in partnership with the Premier League, Football League Trust and Age UK.

Extra Time helps participants to improve their health and emotional well-being to address some serious health problems, such as cardiovascular disease, stroke, obesity, and depression. The project also focuses on lifestyle changes that promote health and well-being, helping older people to stay healthy and well and empowering them to live independent lives.

The programme has engaged around 1,000 older people in their local areas and as a result of Extra Time, 70% said that they found everyday tasks such as climbing stairs easier; 75% had made new friends; 50% felt healthier; 89% felt they had more people looking out for them; and 21% used the health services less.

This year has seen some of the most innovative and exciting activities offered since the programme started back in 2008. Projects ranged from high energy small-sided football for ‘younger’ older men to chair-based exercise for individuals in sheltered housing and care homes who may be unable to stand. Each project also contains a significant social element that exists alongside and complements the physical activity.

Earlier this year Nottingham Forest Extra Time participant Dorothy Antony, aged 83, was nominated by for the Outstanding Achievement Award at the inaugural Nottingham City Sports Awards.

Dorothy was put forward by the club for her charitable work, walking achievements and amazing physical condition for her age.

She was presented with an award by Nottingham Forest striker Dexter Blackstock in front of a packed crowd at the City Ground.

Speaking about the project, Dorothy said: “Throughout my life I have always taken good care of myself, however as you get older it becomes harder to find appropriate places to keep active with people of a similar age.

“The Extra Time project has provided this outlet and given me a place to laugh, chatter, make new friends and most importantly improve my health and wellbeing.

“It was a big shock to be nominated for the Nottingham City Sports Awards and a fantastic experience to be presented with the award in front of 25,000 Forest fans.

“I encourage anyone out there, regardless of their current health status and weather they are a big football fan or not, to take advantage of this great project – there really is something for everyone here!”

Paul Thorogood, Chief Executive of the Football Foundation, said: “Extra Time has transformed the quality of life for older people all over the country, providing important opportunities to stay fit and healthy which would otherwise not exist.

“Programmes across the country have been particularly successful at engaging their local community and offering some of the most innovative programmes we have seen. I congratulate all the clubs who has worked so hard and dedicated so much time to this thriving project.”

To find out more about the great work the Football Foundation is doing in all over the country follow them on Twitter at @TheExtraTime and @FootballFoundtn or visit footballfoundation.org.uk.

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Dan Pope
Writer at Teamer
Freelance writer, editor and copywriter, specialising in football and with a passion for grassroots sport. Former editor at Club Website.

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