Praise for Spireites over-55s scheme

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Chesterfield FC is celebrating the success of a unique football initiative that is having a major impact in improving the health and quality of life for older people north Derbyshire.

The research coincides with UK Older People’s Day 2011 that takes place on Saturday.

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.

Since Chesterfield joined the programme earlier this year they have established a number of successful activities and events including: the social and gentle exercise club; walking football; tea dances; heritage club; walking for health; and many more.

The social and gentle exercise club is aimed at anyone over the age of 60 who wants to come in and make realistic changes to their health in areas of nutrition, fitness and physical activity levels.

The club is based at a local community centre in close proximity to the B2net Stadium.

The session kicks off with an exercise class that includes a gentle mix of chair based and standing exercises that are appropriate to the individual. Sessions include balance work, flexibility stretches, relaxation and strength development.

Extra Time participant, Charlie Hall, 72, said: “I have had damaged shoulders which are much stronger since joining the Extra Time Club and taking part in the exercises every week. Also the range of motion in my knee joint has dramatically improved.”

The second hour of the session changes on a weekly basis. Some weeks consist of an informal chat and others include a formal presentation or a theme. Topics to date have included healthy eating, walking for health, relaxation methods, falls prevention, eye health, smoke free homes and the digital switchover.

Some weeks are themed around fun quizzes and brain training type exercises. Plans for the near future include domestic energy advice, handyman service talk, fire awareness and safety in the home. Participants are also set for a visit from former footballer and Chesterfield FC first team coach, Mark Crossley.

Connie and Hubert Armstrong aged 83 and 88, who attend the programme on a regular basis, said: “Since we came to the Extra Time Club we’re meeting people, enjoying the company, walking better and feeling better. We wouldn’t normally do quizzes but here they help your brain because at our age we forget. We’d like to thank the programme for everything it does.”

The project has attracted 43 different individuals from the local community who have seen a real positive change to their health and emotional wellbeing.

Eric Bagshaw, aged 72, has noticed a vast improvement to his health since joining the programme, saying: “Before Extra Time I used to walk as far as the paper shop and back, I couldn’t walk up hills and took lifts and escalators whenever I could. I had knee replacement surgery 18 months ago and felt I was getting old before my time.

“Since joining the Extra Time programme I can walk eight miles in one go, I use stairs and hills are no problem. I’ve lost over a stone in weight and am now exercising three times a week.

“I’m a true Spireite; I’ve blue blood in my veins; the fact that the club run the project makes it even better. I used to take a lot of painkillers for my aching knees; I hardly ever need them now…. I’m a local celebrity after being on Sky Sports with the Walking Football; I got stopped in Sainsbury’s last week by someone who recognised me off the TV! Before Extra Time I felt 90. Now I feel 50!”

Chesterfield FC Community Trust’s new Community Stand will be opening at the end of the year offering a range of fantastic facilities including a café, multi-purpose sports hall, fitness suite, classroom and soft play area.

It is anticipated that the opening of the Community Stand will allow a range of new opportunities within the Extra Time project including ‘drop-in mornings’, exercise classes, sports opportunities and a general community hub for people to socialise.

Other ventures planned for the future include the delivery of computer basics courses, cycling skills workshops and the delivery of swimming lessons for men with little water confidence.

The Extra Time project, although still young, has mad a real impact. It is changing people’s lives for the better and has the potential to engage with so many more people over the next 12 months.

Kevin Cahill, Chief Executive of Sport Relief, said: “For a number of years Comic Relief has awarded grants that help older people across the UK get access to the support they need. Extra Time is providing a valuable service for a great number of older people across England and Wales, improving their health and fitness as well as strengthening social and community links.”

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. The project at Chesterfield has been particularly successful at engaging the local community and offering some of the most innovative programmes we have seen. I congratulate everyone at the club who has worked so hard and dedicated so much time to this thriving project.”