Aquarius, the charity that supports people to overcome the harms caused by alcohol, drugs and gambling, has partnered with Sport England to expand its Active Ageing project for over-55s who have, or have had, problematic drug, alcohol or gambling use.
Sport England is investing £10 million of National Lottery money into 20 projects across England to reduce the number of inactive older adults, including Aquarius’ Active Ageing Project. There are roughly 5.8 million inactive people over 55 in England and the number is growing as people live longer. Being active maintains health and wellbeing.
The grant from Sport England will enable Aquarius to work with 250 people aged 55 and over in Birmingham, Derby, Solihull, Telford and Wrekin. The project encourages people who use the service to attend at least one activity per week over 40 weeks to create positive behaviour change, enabling people to recognise they can take control and make positive steps to be active and improve wellbeing.
Anthony Hill has used Aquarius’ existing services, following liver failure, COPD and a serious brain injury resulting from his ongoing battle with alcoholism. In January 2017, he was invited to join a weekly walking football club. He said:
“I laughed at the idea. I was using a Zimmer frame and basic tasks were proving too difficult. Eventually I reluctantly agreed. Fast forward to today and I play walking football twice a week. Just over a year ago, I never thought that would be possible. Both my mental and physical health have dramatically improved and I’ve gained the confidence to build my own social networks. Had it not been for Aquarius and the Active Ageing Project, I would have lost my battle with addiction. They have saved my life.”
Aquarius developed the project in consultation with people who use their service, who asked for age-appropriate activities with people with similar experiences. Annette Fleming, Chief Executive at Aquarius, said:
“We know that older people with alcohol dependency and associated health problems feel nervous about trying new things, especially if this involves any physical activity. Our experience has shown us that with support and encouragement people can take up walking football, fishing, walking and yoga, and really enjoy and benefit from the activity, seeing improvements in health, self esteem and maintenance of their alcohol reduction goals.”