Carers UK and Sport England have teamed up to understand how to use sport and physical activity to combat loneliness and boost well-being amongst older carers.
Carers UK has been awarded £99,157 of National Lottery funding from Sport England to understand how unpaid carers over the age of 55 can be supported to move from inactivity to an active lifestyle that will boost their wellbeing and improve their social connections. This is the first investment from the £1 million of National Lottery funding to deliver on the Government’s first loneliness strategy.
There are over 2.5 million carers aged 55+ in England and recent research suggests the numbers are growing rapidly. Unpaid carers report worse health outcomes and lower levels of well-being than the general population. Providing unpaid care is also a significant risk factor for chronic loneliness with carers reporting higher levels of loneliness than the rest of the population.
Commenting on the award Helen Walker, Chief Executive of Carers UK, said:
“Focussing on supporting a loved one can be all consuming and it can be hard to find the time to take care of your own well-being. Juggling caring with a job or looking after children means it’s easy to lose touch with friends and family. So it’s perhaps not surprising that research has shown carers are seven times more likely to say they are often or always lonely.
There are huge proven health benefits to regular activity but so many carers are missing out. I am incredibly excited about the opportunities this funding brings to understand better the barriers that prevent carers from staying active and evaluate what support can enable carers to get active and reduce feelings of loneliness.”
Currently, fewer unpaid carers undertake regular physical activity compared to the general population. Over half of those providing care for family or friends (54%) reported that they have reduced the amount of exercise they take because of caring.
Although various barriers have been identified such as lack of time, financial barriers and the physical exhaustion that often comes with caring responsibilities, there is lack of insight into how these obstacles affect different carers and what resources or support models would be most effective.
Sarah Ruane, Strategic Lead for Health at Sport England, said:
“Sport and physical activity has a unique role in bringing people together and building communities. It has the power to reduce the loneliness and isolation that so many people face in their day to day lives – especially seen amongst carers over the age of 55.
“We are delighted to be partnering with Carers UK and investing National Lottery funding into understanding the barriers carers face in getting active. Tackling these barriers is at the heart of what Sport England does and we hope the insight will be used to better support carers around the country into regular activity.”
In total, Sport England has dedicated £10 million of National Lottery funding from the Active Ageing Fund to tackle loneliness for people over 55.