When the COVID 19 restrictions meant that Derby County’s 'Extra Time Hubs' - a group of retired people aged over 55 - could no longer meet, one member was determined that no-one was going to be left isolated.
Tony explains, in his own words...
“There was a point in my mid-sixties when I found myself living alone and was, at times, very lonely," he says. "It was then that I realised how important social media was in staying connected. Having had this experience, when lockdown became inevitable I wanted to try to use the positive potential of social media to make sure we didn’t lose the links and friendships we had forged during the past year at the Extra Time Hubs.”
Working with the team at Derby County’s Community Trust (DCCT), Tony has been instrumental in ensuring that all Hub members stay connected.
Luke Wilkinson, DCCT’s Extra Time Hub coordinator, says: “Since moving our Extra Time Hubs online in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, initial worries about the accessibility of technology and ensuring all our members were able to keep in touch with ourselves and each other were helped by Tony’s input. He talked other members through the process of getting involved and we haven’t had fewer than 30 individuals and couples at each weekly session since going virtual – at this week’s session we had 45 households on the call!”
Tony’s drive to ensure no-one suffers from being alone comes from his own battles with what he calls ‘lonely depression.’ He credits his involvement with Derby County Community Trust as being critical to changing his life.
“I had retired from a very fulfilling job in education," he adds. "I thought my life would involve normal things that retirement brings: family, friends, holidays and plenty of time in the garden. However, things didn’t work out as I anticipated. A sudden, and to me, unexpected relationship breakdown turned my life upside down and I found myself living alone feeling quite bereft from the retirement I anticipated. After a period of what can only be described as lonely depression, I realised I needed to do something.”
As a lifelong Derby supporter, the work of Derby County Community Trust really appealed to him. He joined the Rams’ walking football team and the EFL Trust Extra Time Hubs as a volunteer and thanks to the programme, now finds life more fulfilling and has made many new friends.
Extra Time Hubs are the start of a national social movement of people in their retirement years where people meet weekly to socialise and do things they enjoy. Funded with the support of Sport England’s Active Ageing fund from the National Lottery, the Hubs have initially been created at 11 EFL Clubs. The Hubs harnesses the power of a football club in the local community to bring older people together to combat loneliness and inactivity. Members are able to shape the range of activities of offer which benefit their physical, social and emotional health, and activities vary from quizzes to arts and crafts, gardening to yoga.
Luke explains how Tony has been the driving force behind Derby’s hub, saying: “Tony has always been active in helping others get involved but since isolation he has stepped up to another level. He‘s continued to collate and write quizzes for the group and helps staff to deliver our short exercise routine at the start of each session by providing the music and is an ever-present face in the group. He really brings a feel-good factor to the group and is one of the reasons we are seeing such high rates of engagement throughout this time where harder-to-reach groups could have become disconnected.”
Tony concludes: “My life is now full of activity and I now have more friends than I have ever had before. The support and camaraderie of the friends I have met through the Hubs has been vitally important in giving me and others in the group back our self-esteem and confidence. I can’t believe how much my life has turned around and I wanted to make sure that even if we can’t meet physically we didn’t lose what we’ve got. So for me it’s a win-win situation and hopefully it’s helping others cope during these difficult times. And the real bonus is, personally, it has given me a purpose and a focus.”
To find out more, follow the hashtag: #ExtraTimeHubs or visit www.efltrust.com/extratime/