Innovative programme to reconnect older football fans launches

Friends of the Elderly and West Ham United Foundation are inviting fans of the football club, who are aged 65 and over, to join a project to celebrate and explore the club’s rich history, and give those involved the opportunity to reconnect over their love of football.

Run in conjunction with the Premier League (PL) and the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA), the ‘Any Old Irons’ project is part of the Football Friends programme. The initiative gives participants the opportunity to connect with other fans and locals in their 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’s 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 – 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 project is possible thanks to funding and resource provided by West Ham United Foundation, Friends of the Elderly, the Premier League and PFA. The PL/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.

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 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.”

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 inthe 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 over our club and their shared memories.”

The ongoing five week project takes place at East Ham Working Men’s Club and is open to anyone over the age of 65. 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.