Nobody likes to be lonely. It’s a very isolating feeling that is hard to shake. It isn’t just an emotional feeling, loneliness can also be a very serious health condition. One AARP study found that prolonged periods of social isolation can actually have the same health risks as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. However, unlike other health ailments, the symptoms of loneliness are rather difficult to diagnose to everyone else but the person who is lonely. To combat loneliness, the UK has a new initiative that is aimed at making it easier for people who feel lonely to get out and socialize with others.
According to Yahoo!, the police department of Burnham-On-Sea, in southwest England, has posted signs which are now sectioning off some public seats as designated “chat benches.” Two benches were unveiled in a park in nearby Taunton, with another one placed on the waterfront in Burnham-On-Sea. The signs read, “The ‘Happy to Chat’ Bench: Sit Here If You Don’t Mind Someone Stopping To Say Hello.”
For those people feeling isolated in their daily lives, the benches provide an opportunity to connect with someone new. In addition, the benches are also great for those who want to help others feel less lonely in the community.
A support officer for the Burnham-On-Sea police community, Tracey Grobbeler, said to Burnham-On-Sea.com, “Simply stopping to say ‘hello’ to someone at the Chat Bench could make a huge difference to the vulnerable people in our communities and help to make life a little better for them.”
The initiative was launched in time to coincide with United Nations World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. According to a recent poll, more than a third of seniors reported feeling like they’re lacking in companionship at least some of the time – that is so sad! And there’s another 27% who report they feel isolated some of the time or more often. While the project was created with elderly people in mind, the Burnham-On-Sea police department is encouraging people of all ages to use the chat benches.
This permission to engage with strangers in conversation is just another way to try to fight social isolation amongst the elderly. In China, they have a different approach – young people are allowed to live in a nursing home for discounted rent in exchange for spend time with the elderly residents. That is such a great idea. While over in Europe and parts of the US, adult playgrounds are the new social hubs for senior citizens.
What do you think of this idea?