Senior Fantasy Football and March Madness

2023 NACo Achievement Award Winner

Erie County, N.Y., NY

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About the Program

Category: County Administration and Management (Best in Category)

Year: 2023

The Erie County Department of Senior Services piloted a free Fantasy Football league of nine members at one senior centers during the 2021 NFL season, when many recreational and social activities were still shut down due to the Covid-19 Pandemic. The Erie County Department of Senior Services recruited members, led the draft, and taught members how to use the ESPN app to manage their teams throughout the season. One significant goal of this program was to increase participation of older adult men at senior centers, as well as those who have recently retired. The League provided a unique supplement to the programming already in existence at the Center. League members and Erie County Department of Senior Services staff met once a month to answer questions, compare records, and engage in good-natured sports “trash talking.” The League was a success, with continued participation throughout the season, excitement among participants, and more regular center attendance.  Thus, the model was replicated at an additional four centers for the 2022 NFL season. New friendships amongst players have been established at each participating center. The camaraderie and energy is so inspiring to see.  The Erie County Department of Senior Services celebrated with all players at each hosting center with an end-of-season party, where we crowned our league champions. It started out as football, friendship and fun, but grew into so much more! The disappointment of participants when the season ended was something unexpected our team witnessed at the end of the season. Therefore, Senior Services began a new pilot program in 2023 to expand further into the winter months with an NCAA March Madness Basketball Tournament.  We currently have six participating senior centers playing against each other for a women’s and men’s league championship title. 

The Fantasy Sports & Gaming Association reports that in 2022 there were 62.5 million people playing fantasy sports in the USA and Canada - so the possibilities with this program are endless. Further, being part of our Fantasy Football League encouraged older adults to communicate with one another outside of the senior center - as well as bridging connection with family members in different generations and learning more about technology. We had members report it was a great way to connect with their grandchildren, who helped them draft players, rotate players into the lineup, and assisted with technical issues. Potential for future programming iteration include the idea of an intergenerational league based on this feedback.