An aged care provider and an Australian rules football peak body have teamed up to encourage South Australians over the age of 50 to join a new walking football initiative.
The Walking Footy program has been developed in partnership by South Australian National Football League and aged care provider ECH Inc to help older people keep fit.
It has been co-designed with older people who took part in trials in 2019 to ensure the program is safe, inclusive and fun.
Walking Footy is a modified version of Australian football, which is commonly called Aussie rules, involving two teams of six playing on a basketball-court sized field.
It is suitable for people of varying fitness levels and physically less demanding than traditional football. Tackling, bumping or running are not permitted.
ECH chief executive David Panter said the walking footy concept aimed to help seniors keep active and connected.
“With social isolation on the increase and modern society ensuring everything is now at the touch of a button, initiatives such as this provide people with an inclusive and healthy way to meet new people, stay connected to the community, get out and about and enjoy some exercise,” Dr Panter said.
“In the last few years walking soccer and walking cricket have really taken off in the UK and have started to appear in Australia. It seemed obvious to look at how to translate this concept to Australian rules football,” Mr Panter said.
He said he was thrilled to partner with SANFL to make this program available to more than 15,000 ECH clients and the broader South Australian community.
ECH client Julie Clarke, 67, who played Walking Footy for the first time last October, said it was an excellent initiative that enabled mature people like herself to get actively involved in a new sport.
She said she looked forward to fun, cooperation, competition, physical challenge and a team environment.
SANFL chief executive officer Jake Parkinson said the program filled a gap for seniors who were football fans as well as those who have never played the game.
“The walking footy concept is a way of encouraging active participation in football at all stages of life and there are certainly no prerequisites to getting involved,” Mr Parkinson said.
“With an ageing population, the program will be a significant way of helping to promote healthier lifestyles and connect people socially through the enjoyment of footy.”
SANFL and ECH are holding free come-and-try sessions throughout February ahead of a new competition rolling out at various Adelaide venues from March.
The program is open to all South Australians over the age of 50.
Comment below to have your say on this story