How West Ham can play a huge role in giving older people joy

David Blackmore on the programme that is bringing seniors together

West Ham United Foundation and Friends of the Elderly are inviting Hammers aged 65 and over, to join a project celebrating and exploring the club’s rich history, and giving those involved the opportunity to reconnect over their love of football.

Run in conjunction with the Premier League and the Professional Footballers’ Association, the Any Old Irons project is part of Friends of the Elderly’s Football Friends programme.

It gives participants the opportunity to connect with other West Ham United fans and members of their local community, bringing them together for fun and friendship. Those attending can also learn how to stay in touch with their fellow fans and the club using digital technology. Don Adams, who is 67 and from East London, took part in the first Football Friends programme in March 2015.

After retiring six years ago, Don found there was nothing of interest for him to get involved with. He said: ‘You hear so many things aimed at senior women but little for men. It’s a shame – but now the Football Friends programme has changed my life.’

He added: ‘It’s got me out of the house, it’s got me interacting with other people and I’ve made new friends.’ The Any Old Irons project is made possible thanks to funding and resource provided by West Ham United Foundation, Friends of the Elderly, the Premier League and PFA. The Premier League/PFA fund supports community projects delivered by professional football clubs, by allowing them to work in partnership with local agencies and charities who deliver programmes that will help and support those taking part.

The fund allows clubs to focus on areas of need for their local community and develop partnerships that will look to address these. Hammers legend and current first-team coach Julian Dicks, said: ‘Any Old Irons is another brilliant initiative from the Foundation, in partnership with Friends of the Elderly, to support older people in the West Ham community.

‘By bringing together Hammers’ fans who may not be socially active, Any Old Irons helps keep vulnerable fans connected; it’s great to see so many supporters from different generations bonding.

Maureen, aged 66, took part in the Any Old Irons program in February 2017. Maureen acknowledged she was nervous about attending the programme but found the courage to go. She said: ‘I have found the experience marvellous; I’ve made new friends and at the same time learnt more about how to use my smartphone and iPad.’

Maureen added: ‘This opportunity has given us all a new lease on life and I would like to thank you for a very inspiring five weeks.’ She is now in the process of joining Any Old Irons as a volunteer. Sally McLachlan, Senior Engagement Manager at Friends of the Elderly, said: ‘We are really excited to be launching our rolling Football Friends programme, Any Old Irons, with West Ham United Foundation.

‘We know that loneliness is an issue for older people for many different reasons, but we’ve learnt from the previous two years that this programme not only helps to overcome loneliness, but it also supports prevention, giving participants the confidence to become involved in their local community once again.’

The ongoing Any Old Irons project is open to anyone over the age of 65 to sign up for an initial five weeks. Places are limited and will be allocated on a first reserved basis.

Those interested in attending should call Friends of the Elderly on 0330 332 1110 or they can email hello@fote. B

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