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Newcastle United Foundation reaches out to its walking footballers to combat loneliness

Newcastle United Foundation’s health and wellbeing team are reaching out to members of their walking football group, all of whom face an extended period of self-isolation during the coronavirus outbreak.

Many of the participants at the foundation’s walking football scheme take part in the sessions to combat loneliness. The majority of the group are over 65 and many live alone.

Some of the cohort have not left their accommodation for more than 20 days and the current lockdown is proving to be a significant challenge.

Newcastle United health and wellbeing manager, Oliver Bell, said: “It’s been quite an eye-opening experience as you realise how important a phone-call – which you may think isn’t a big deal – can be.

“We’ve had a real range of scenarios, some of our participants are in great spirits, however there are some who have expressed anxiety around losing work and we’ve been able to give them guidance on employability advice and point them in the right direction for further advice.

“Ultimately, it helps to say things out loud and if you have been worrying about something, just saying it out loud will help and we’re happy to be that person on the other end of the line.”

Alongside catching up with the walking footballers, Newcastle United Foundation has recently offered NHS workers free mental health resources from the #BeAGameChanger campaign.

The foundation is using similar resources with the walking footballers, including peer support, experts talks, weekly quizzes and basic exercise routines.

Bob Smith, 73, who lives on the 11th floor of a block of flats in Newcastle’s East End, said: “I was delighted when I received the call from the Foundation and it was great to be able to hear a familiar voice as I’m missing the walking football sessions – I normally attend five a week!

“I’m still trying to keep active; I’m kicking my football against the outside wall a hundred times a day with my left and my right foot. I’m making sure I kick it softly with my toes so it doesn’t upset the neighbours! You have to keep going, if I don’t, the next time I get on the pitch I will feel it.

“I also walk from my kitchen, down the small passage, cut into my spare room, walk right to the window, turn around and back again. I do this a hundred times a day as well with my records on and I have to finish before the song does.

“It’s great to have the foundation check in and I know a lot of the members will really appreciate it at this challenging time.”