Sport England put tackling inactivity at the heart of its strategy towards ‘An Active Nation’, and launched the Active Ageing fund to tackle inactivity in the over-55s.

Their research shows there are roughly 5.8 million inactive people over 55 in England, and the number of inactive people is growing as people are living longer. Inactivity among over-55s is responsible for as many deaths as smoking – with 36% of over 55s inactive compared to 26% of the population as a whole.

Of those aged between 55 and 64, 28% of people are inactive, and of those between 65 and 74, 31% are inactive. Nearly half the population in England between 75 and 84 are currently inactive. People aged 85 and over are largely inactive, and only 28% are involved in sporting activity.

The Sporting Memories Network works in partnership with communities and organisations to promote the mental and physical well-being of people over the age of 50, using sport as a focus to engage those who are living with dementia, depression or are socially isolated.

Weekly volunteer-led group activities take place at sports stadiums, sports clubs, museums, care centres, community centres and libraries, using archive images of sport, memorabilia and news reports to trigger fond memories of playing or watching sport.

As well as reminiscing about sport and allowing group members to tell their stories through sporting memories, the groups include exercise and the playing of accessible sports.

Tony Jameson-Allen, Co-founder of Sporting Memories Network said: “We are absolutely delighted to have been given this funding by Sport England and it is recognition of the huge strides we continue to make as an organisation and charity.

“Through this new funding, we will be able to significantly expand the range and availability of appropriate physical activity and sporting opportunities for the people living with dementia and their carers we currently work with in England.

“Each of the new Sporting Memories groups we set up will offer at least 30 minutes of physical activity and provide equipment and tailored training to the group leaders that will help ensure that this can be sustained and additionally. We also want to ensure that our existing groups incorporate 30 minutes of physical activity.

“What is really key for us through this funding is to make strides that will help visualise the benefits of physical activity to our participants, and by doing this hopefully change their attitude towards it.”

As well as running a range of activities and sports throughout the year in these new and existing regional groups, Sporting Memories Network will help encourage those taking part to also become active in other local schemes and activity that are of specific interest to them.

Mike Diaper, Executive Director at Sport England said: “Being active is one of the most important things people can do to maintain health and well-being as they age. We’re delighted to be supporting Sporting Memories Network with National Lottery funding to help get older adults lead happier and healthier lives. We’ll be sharing learnings so successful approaches can be scaled-up or replicated across the country.”

Leeds Beckett University’s Centre for Dementia Research will be working with Sporting Memories Network and group participants throughout the project to study the impact the approach has on supporting people living with dementia to become more active in their daily lives.

Professor Claire Surr of Leeds Beckett University said “We are very pleased to be partnering with Sporting Memories on this project and to be providing an independent evaluation of impact on group participants. This will support the Network to develop the project and take forward the work based on evidence of its impact, as well as what group members tells us works and could work better. This is going to be a valuable and exciting evaluation to conduct and we are looking forward to working with them on it.”