Around 250 lonely and isolated older people will be joining programmes of social and physical activity that improves their mental health, thanks to a grant from West Lancashire Freemasons to the Blackpool FC Community Trust (BFCCT). Duncan Smith, Assistant Provincial Grand Master of West Lancashire Freemasons with responsibility for the Blackpool area was delighted to visit one of the activities at a nearby church used for some of the activities that are receiving funding.
The £40,000 grant will see isolated people and those with dementia given the opportunity to engage in five different programmes:
Replay gives adults the opportunity to come together to engage in different social and physical activities all within one session. Participants will be able to socialise and make new friends over a brew whilst choosing from a range of exciting activities within the session including, chair-based and low-impact exercises aimed at improving physical health and capabilities, boccia, bingo, table-top games such as dominoes, chess, drafts, Subbuteo, electronic games and much more.
Extra Time is a Blackpool Football Club Community Trust programme delivered for over-55s. The group is needs-led and participants have an input on the activities they would like to be available during the sessions. Afternoons can include chair-based exercise, dominoes, quizzes, trips, country-themed afternoons, or simply coffee and a chat. In the past, participants have enjoyed themed afternoons, sessions where new foods are tasted, with fact-finding, quizzes and dancing all related to a foreign country, and groups visits to some of Blackpool’s famous heritage sites and attractions.
Sporting Memories is aimed at older sports fans and those living with mild to moderate dementia and related memory loss conditions. These sessions will predominantly cover football and Blackpool FC, although we will incorporate other sports. This fun group will then provide people with an opportunity to meet up with like-minded people to share stories, memories, memorabilia, and opinions.
The wellbeing social group is a peer support group enables individuals to come together to share experiences, celebrate highlights and talk with others about challenges and concerns in their lives.
‘Walk and Talk’ group sessions help to combat loneliness whilst getting active, enjoying the outdoors and getting to know the local area.
Blackpool has the largest population of over 50s in the North West, comprising 20 per cent of the population, and is the most deprived local authority in England. At least one-quarter of older adults live in deprivation and therefore face a serious decline in social activity. There is also a lack of local provision since Age UK Blackpool closed in 2018. Through discussions with Blackpool Council, older Blackpool FC fans and, more recently, the NHS and Blackpool’s four Primary Care Networks have led BFCCT to expand provision to help address this need. This particular programme has grown to support 225 older adults aged 50 plus in the last year.
A recent survey of clients who have been through the programmes showed 100 per cent have made new friends, and 50 per cent feel significantly less lonely. The remaining 50 per cent felt slightly less lonely or have stayed the same.
The grant from West Lancashire Freemasons comes through the Masonic Charitable Foundation, which is funded by Freemasons, their families and friends, from across England and Wales.
Dave Maclean, Community Engagement Manager at Blackpool FC Community Trust said:
“We’re very grateful to West Lancashire Freemasons for their generous grant which will make a real difference to older people in our community who are so often dealing with loneliness and social isolation. This is a major issue in Blackpool, and we’re delighted to be partnering with the Freemasons to tackle it.”
Mark Matthews, leader of West Lancashire Freemasons, said:
“I’m very pleased we’ve been able to help Blackpool FC Community Trust with their vitally important initiative to tackle loneliness and social isolation. Blackpool has a huge population of older people and one in four live in depravation which inevitably leads to a major decline in social activity. It’s great that we’re partnering with Blackpool FC to improve the lives of so many people.”