Innovative community organisation Active Families North East, has received £47k from UK Research and Innovation’s Healthy Ageing Challenge to bring its new Well Bean Machine to over 10k households across Sunderland.

Part of a national £3m scheme to tackle the impact of ageing, the team was one of only two applications in the North East awarded the grant from the funding body. 

The Well Bean machine comes packed full of exercise and activity equipment so that Active Families’ trainers can carry out their popular on-street fitness classes to older residents, provide additional health support and opportunities for social interaction and finish up by offering a well-deserved tea or coffee.

Kelly Brougham, Director at Active Families, said: “Supporting and improving the lives of older people is something we’ve always been committed to through our work at Active Families North East. 

“It can be incredibly isolating for older people in general, in addition to the circumstances inflicted by the pandemic and we knew we needed to offer something innovative and different to encourage more social interaction, while also helping residents to stay healthy and have a bit of fun.

“We feel the Well Bean machine does just that and we can’t wait to hit the streets of Sunderland and get individuals involved in the activities we have planned.”

In addition to offering Active Families’ popular Seat to Street programme which allows older residents to sit in their doorways and take part in instructor-led classes, Active Families North East will also be offering health assessments, free resources and equipment packs with ‘at-home’ exercises to try.

George MacGinnis, Healthy Ageing Challenge Director at UKRI, said: “Social enterprises like Active Families are playing an important part in addressing inequalities in healthy longevity, yet recent research has highlighted the difficulties they face in raising funds to grow.  

“The ‘Well Bean Machine’ is a great example of the innovation and imagination the social enterprise sector brings in tackling some of our society’s most difficult issues. That’s why I am delighted that we have been able to support Active Families as part of the UKRI Healthy Ageing Challenge’s £2.78 million funding through the Small Business Research Initiative.”

In recent months, Active Families North East has been working within a partnership of organisations to offer a Winter Support Scheme to residents in the Coalfields area of Sunderland, helping individuals to cope with the rising costs of fuel and food. 

So far, the group has helped over 1,000 households with plans to help even more residents in the coming months.

Kelly added: “We’ve had a very busy start to the year, but it’s our ultimate goal to help Sunderland residents, stay healthy and active and provide the support needed to help families cope with the rising costs of living.

“As well as our Winter Support Scheme and Well Being Machine we also have our regular programme of fitness classes, family activities, care home seated exercise classes and school camps which you can find out more about on our website.”

To learn more about Active Families North East and get involved with their upcoming events and programmes, visit: https://activefamiliesne.co.uk