Older men in Sheffield to get Sporting Chance thanks to charity

Volunteering Matters chief executive Oonagh Aitken and staff with the 600,000 grant it received from the People's Postcode Lottery. It will spend 150,000 setting up the Sporting Chance programme for older men in Sheffield.

Volunteering Matters chief executive Oonagh Aitken and staff with the 600,000 grant it received from the People's Postcode Lottery. It will spend 150,000 setting up the Sporting Chance programme for older men in Sheffield.

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A national charity will spend £150,000 setting up a wellbeing programme for older men in Sheffield.

Volunteering Matters will use the money it received from the People's Postcode Lottery to extend its Sporting Chance scheme into the city.

Sporting Chance, which currently runs in Middlesbrough and Stockton-on-Tees, offers a range of free activities, such as exercise classes and social groups. The aim is to improve both the mental and physical wellbeing of older men, who are often isolated and more likely to suffer from serious long-term illness.

Volunteering Matters chief executive Oonagh Aitken said: "We target older men over 50 who might be at risk of social isolation.

"They might be in a situation where they are retired, they might not know what to do with themselves."

An independent evaluation of the current Sporting Chance programme in 2015 found it was effective in preventing and managing symptoms of conditions such as diabetes, stroke and chronic respiratory disease.

Mrs Aitken said: "It has been hugely successful, both from physical and mental health points of view.

"The guys are incredibly enthusiastic and have really loved the project. So on that basis we wanted something similar in Sheffield."

The charity chose Sheffield for several reasons, including the city's high number of People's Postcode Lottery players. But perhaps more important were the various public health issues, such as the low average life expectancy for older men.

"All of these have added up in terms of us choosing Sheffield," said Mrs Aitken.

The Sporting Chance programme should be up and running in the spring. Volunteering Matters will work with the city council's Activity Sheffield team to identify areas of highest need.

Mrs Aitken hopes it will leave a lasting legacy in the city.

"We find that the guys are going to the doctor less, generally feeling betters, making new friends and combatting social isolation," she said.

The charity is also spending £450,000 on its retired and senior volunteering programme across the country.