Football touches the hearts of people of all ages, from youngsters wearing their favourite player’s shirt on match day, to veteran supporters who remember the World Cup win of ’66.
Today, football is giving back to the community in an initiative called Extra Time, which provides regular physical and social activity for over-55s at 30 professional football clubs. Launched in May 2008, the Extra Time programme is jointly funded by the Football Foundation and Sport Relief.
Cynthia Martindale, a 77-year-old attendee of the Extra Time project at Queen’s Park Rangers Football Club, appreciates the challenge of a new activity every six weeks and feels thankful for the project. She said, “Extra Time has really improved my quality of life. I have improved brain function, am more physically active and have better body strength and co-ordination.”
Extra Time gives participants the opportunity to take part in a wide range of activities, not just football. Blackburn Rovers FC offers line dancing, pitch walks, tea dances and technology courses. Participants are also encouraged to stay for social time after the events. Jamie Hopwood, head of community sport and health engagement at Blackburn Rovers Community Trust said, “Extra Time addresses several important issues for older people: physical health, emotional well-being and social isolation.
“There’s a really friendly, supportive atmosphere and anyone interested in coming along to be part of the team will certainly be made to feel very welcome. Participants can just turn up on the day, complete an application form and take part in the activity.”
In a recent evaluation report, 75% of participants said they had made new friends through the project and 89% felt they had more people looking out for them.
Femina Makkar, programme manager for Extra Time, said, “Extra Time has transformed the quality of life for older people all over the country, providing important opportunities to stay active and healthy which would otherwise not exist. The sessions run in a fun and friendly environment, offering participants the chance to socialise and make new friends.
She added, “In the recent report, 21% of participants said they used the health service less as a result of Extra Time, while 70% said they found everyday tasks easier.”
Martindale, who fears depression and Alzheimer’s, sees exercise as a way to keep them at bay. Her aim is to remain active, so she’s not reliant on the NHS in the years to come. She added, “Thanks to Extra Time I am now more alert, happier and looking forward to a long life!”
For more information about the Extra Time initiative, visit www.footballfoundation.org.uk