Tackling loneliness in the community

West Ham United Foundation, Friends of the Elderly and Barclays Digital Eagles have launched Sporting Stories
West Ham United Foundation and Friends of the Elderly are delighted to announce the launch of a new initiative, in partnership with Barclays Digital Eagles, aimed at addressing the increasing issue of loneliness among older people. 

Research shows there is a significant increase in the number of men facing loneliness and isolation in old age. In fact, a recent report indicates that 1.5 million older men will be living alone by 2030 – a 65 per cent increase on the current numbers. With this in mind, Sporting Stories aims to reach as many older people as possible.

The launch of Sporting Stories was marked by a social event at the Boleyn Ground, where Joint-Chairman David Gold recounted his own sporting tales with the 50 attendees and a great many volunteers from the three organisations.  

As well as an opportunity to talk about the Club and the local area with fellow fans and locals, attendees had the chance to sign-up to a five week follow-on programme. The Foundation is to create West Ham experiences for the participants, so as to reduce the likelihood of isolation and loneliness.   

Foundation Chief Executive, Joseph Lyons, was effusive in his praise of the programme and believes it will make a considerable difference to the lives of those involved.  

“We’re really excited about this new initiative,” he confirmed. “West Ham United has always been a family Club, but this really goes beyond partisan support and reaches out to those who just love the game. It’s an opportunity for people to share their memories and develop relationships and for the Foundation to further our goal of improving wellbeing across our diverse society.

“Football has a unique ability to bring people together and to kick-start social action. Often the over 65s can become isolated, but they will always be a central part of our football community and we hope Sporting Stories will ensure that no-one is left on the sidelines.”

Steve Allen, Chief Executive Officer of Friends of the Elderly, insists that loneliness is easily averted, with straightforward interventions such as this coming to the rescue. 

He added:  “This issue is integral to Friends of the Elderly’s work and feeds into our on-going nationwide Be a Friend campaign, which aims to end loneliness and isolation in our communities. Loneliness really can be overcome with relatively simple interventions. It might not seem much, but a brief chat and a shared bond over football can make the world of difference to an older person who has no family and friends nearby. 

“We are delighted by the positive response this project has received so far and we hope that Sporting Stories, will help create a culture of connected communities.”

Barclays Digital Eagles will also have a presence at the programme to help teach attendees how to stay connected in today’s digital age. Steven Roberts, Strategic Transformation Director from Barclays Digital Eagles, was keen to emphasise the power of football in engaging those who may not otherwise be interested in staying connected online.

“Barclays has a longstanding interest in football and our sponsorship of the Premier League has shown us first-hand how important the sport is to local communities,” he explained.  

“The digital world can seem daunting to some, but by focussing on a passion like football we hope the journey for those who have previously been marginalised will be really enjoyable and will allow them to positively connect with communities.”