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Age UK launches new walking football programme with The FA and Sport England

Published on 23 April 2021 12:00 AM

Today, Age UK in partnership with The Football Association [The FA] and Sport England have announced the launch of a new Walking Football programme, with a goal to reach over 1,000 older people through walking football groups in communities across England over the next two years.

Local Age UKs will be funded by the partnership with The FA and Sport England to run sessions that will be delivered from late Spring 2021. Walking football is a safe, fun and inclusive way of re-introducing physical activity to women and men in later life. It enables anybody – whether they are life-long football players, lapsed players or new to the sport – to give the game a go in a supportive and sociable environment. Because age doesn’t need to be a barrier for walking football players, older people can keep their mind and body active whilst enjoying the sportsmanship and a sense of belonging that comes with being part of a team. 

Being active is good for physical and mental health whatever your age and it’s especially important as we get older. Sport England’s Active Lives data highlights that before the pandemic, we were seeing strong growth in older adult activity levels. However, since the pandemic older people’s activity levels have declined, with the proportion of people aged 55-74 who are active falling from 63% to 56%, and the proportion of people aged 75+ who are active declining from 42% to 35%. The programme will provide older people the opportunity to get out and about and increase their levels of activity following a challenging year.

The Walking Football programme also includes a focus on reaching older people living in more deprived areas of the country and those living with long-term health conditions, as research has shown that these groups are more likely to be physically inactive.

James Kendall, Director of Football Development at The FA, said: “This exciting new partnership will support the increasing popularity of walking football, allowing well over 1,000 new participants to give walking football a go when the sessions kick off in the coming months.

“We look forward to seeing players of all ability take part in what is a fun and inclusive activity, improves health and social engagement and is further evidence of the incredible role football has to play as a force for good within all communities.”

Mike Diaper, Executive Director, Health and Tackling Inactivity at Sport England, said: “Living an active life is one of the most beneficial ways that people can lead healthier and happier lives - and this is even more important when we get older. That’s why we are so pleased to partner with The FA and Age UK to bring walking football to older people in communities across England. Thanks to National Lottery players, this partnership and our investment of over £400k will help many hundreds of older people stay fit, have fun and make friends, in a safe and supportive environment.”

Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK, said: “We’re delighted to have the support of The FA and Sport England for Age UK’s Walking Football programme. We know that keeping active can improve confidence and wellbeing, help older people to live independently for longer, and reduce isolation and loneliness, whilst also being great fun! It’s been a difficult time for our older population during the pandemic, with many older people having to shield and stay at home, as well as being unable to see friends and family. The Walking Football programme will be a great opportunity for older people to feel active and socialise again in a safe environment.”

The programme is funded in partnership with The FA and Sport England, who are investing money raised by National Lottery players into the programme.

Walking football groups at local Age UKs are due to kick off across the country later in the year. All groups and sessions will be covid-secure and delivered in accordance with Government guidelines.

For more information about the Age UK Walking Football Programme and older people keeping active, please visit https://www.ageuk.org.uk/walking-football/

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Last updated: May 11 2022

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Notes to editors:

[i] Older households are defined as households with at least one person aged 60 or over.

[ii] 2022-23

[iii]Age UK analysis of Living Cost & Food Survey 2019-20. Figures projected to 2022. Spending patterns are assumed to be the same as those in 2019-20. Prices of items are changed in line with ONS inflation output figures for the years to 2021-22, and then by 9-10% to the year 2022-23 for all items except for energy that are increased by the rise in the energy price cap of 54% in April 2022 and an assumed rise of 40% in October 2022. Household income are changed in line with output data (to 2021-22) and then forecast figures (to 2021-22) and then 3.1% for households whose main source of income is benefits and 4.42% for other households (to 2022-23). 

[iv] By poorest older households we are referring to those older households with the lowest household income after-tax (i.e. those in the lowest income decile).

[v] Age UK analysis of Living Cost & Food Survey 2019-20. Figures projected to 2022. Spending patterns are assumed to be the same as those in 2019-20. Prices of items are changed in line with ONS inflation output figures for the years to 2021-22, and then by 9-10% to the year 2022-23 for all items except for energy that are increased by the rise in the energy price cap of 54% in April 2022 and an assumed rise of 40% in October 2022. Household income are changed in line with output data (to 2021-22) and then forecast figures (to 2021-22) and then 3.1% for households whose main source of income is benefits and 4.42% for other households (to 2022-23). 

[vi] Office for National Statistics (ONS) 2022. Coronavirus and the social impacts on Great Britain: Household finances. Datasets: 19 November 2021 to 1 April 2022. Available at: https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/healthandsocialcare/healthandwellbeing/datasets/coronavirusandthesocialimpactsongreatbritainhouseholdfinances.

[vii] Those in receipt of Pension Credit, which can be backdated for three months and tops up the weekly income of a single pensioner to £182.60 or a pensioner couple to £278.70, (or higher in some circumstances) could also be entitled to the following:

  • A Cold Weather Payment of £25, paid automatically when the average temperature is 0°C or below over seven consecutive days
  • £140 off electricity bill thorough the Warm Home Discount Scheme, if eligible
  • A free TV licence (if also over-75)
  • Free NHS dental treatment and help towards the cost of glasses and travel to hospital
  • Help with Council Tax
  • Help with rent
  • Cheaper phone and home broadband deals
  • Reduced water bills
  • An extra amount of Pension Credit for some carers worth up to £37.70 a week.

Age UK

We work with our national partners, Age Scotland, Age Cymru and Age NI and our local Age UK partners in England (together the Age UK Family). We also work internationally for people in later life as a member of the DEC and with our sister charity Help Age International.

Age UK believes that everyone should have the opportunity to make the most of later life, whatever their circumstances. We provide free information, advice and support to over six million people; commercial products and services to over one million customers; and research and campaign on the issues that matter to people in later life. Our work focuses on five key areas: money matters, health and well-being, home and care, work and training and leisure and lifestyle.

Age UK is a charitable company limited by guarantee and registered in England (registered charity number 1128267 and company number 6825798). Age Concern England and Help the Aged (both registered charities), and their trading and other associated companies merged on the 1st April 2009. Together they have formed the Age UK Group ("we"). Charitable services are offered through Age UK and commercial products are offered by the Charity's trading companies, which donate their net profits to Age UK (the Charity).

For more information

Contact the Age UK Media team on 020 3033 1430 during office hours (Mon-Fri 08:30-17:30) or for out-of-hours media support please email media@ageuk.org.uk 

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