£150,000 awarded to offer free exercise and social groups to older men in Sheffield

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National charity Volunteering Matters has been awarded £600,000 in funding from players of People’s Postcode Lottery to support its work in tackling social isolation and boosting the health and wellbeing of older people across the UK.

£450,000 will be earmarked for expanding Volunteers Matters’ Retired and Senior Volunteering Programme (RSVP) across the UK. RSVP was set up in 1988 specifically to harness the energy and experience of older people and prevent them from becoming excluded or isolated when their working life ended.

RSVP’s unique volunteer-led model empowers the volunteers themselves to be the drivers of change in their communities. There are currently 10,000 RSVP volunteers across the UK, ranging in age from 50 to 105. They are supported by 433 volunteer organisers. RSVP projects include GP driver schemes, handyperson services, art classes, exercise groups, book clubs and knitting groups. There are also a range of inter-generational volunteer opportunities, such as reading with children and mentoring disadvantaged young people.

£150k will be used to replicate our successful Sporting Chance model in Sheffield. Sporting Chance is a health and wellbeing programme aimed at isolated older men, currently operating in Middlesbrough and Stockton-On-Tees.

The project offers a range of free activities to older men, including exercise classes and social groups. Participants can strengthen their physical and mental health by becoming more active and building positive and supportive relationships with like-minded people in their local community. In 2015, an independent evaluation found that the Sporting Chance model is effective in preventing and managing symptoms of long-term conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, stroke and chronic respiratory disease.

Oonagh Aitken, Chief Executive of Volunteering Matters, said: “I am absolutely delighted that players of People’s Postcode Lottery have chosen to support our work with isolated older people. Throughout the UK, increasing numbers of older people are facing loneliness and poor health and wellbeing. This isn’t inevitable – if we pull together in our communities then we can improve the quality of life for older people.

“I firmly believe that volunteering provides older people with a sense of purpose, renewed self-confidence and a zest for life that enables them to play an active and meaningful role in their local community. I’m very thankful to the players of People’s Postcode Lottery, and I’m looking forward to meeting the new volunteers and beneficiaries who will benefit from these projects.”

Clara Govier, Head of Charities at People’s Postcode Lottery added: “The projects that our players will be supporting will make such a difference to the lives of so many older people across the country. We are delighted that our players have been able to award this vital funding to Volunteering Matters.”