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Happy to Chat benches help loneliness in older people

19th November 2019

A new scheme that was first launched in the UK to help combat loneliness amongst older people has been rolled out to countries all over the globe.

The idea sees laminated cards attached to benches in parks, by beaches and lots of other locations to encourage people to speak to older people.

The brainchild of the scheme was Allison Owen-Jones, from Cardiff, after she saw an older man being ignored by passing joggers, teenagers with headphones and dog walkers. She thought there had to be an easy way that would let people know that you were open to having a chat.

Speaking to the BBC, she said: “So I came up with the idea of tying a sign that would open the avenues for people. I didn't want it to sound too vulnerable so I wrote, 'Happy to chat bench. Sit here if you don't mind someone stopping to say hello'.”

The idea started with Allison tying these cards around her home city of Cardiff, but once the Senior Citizen Liaison Team got involved it took the idea further.

Following partnerships with the police forces at Avon and Somerset and Gwent there are now permanent ‘chat benches’ across these regions. As news has spread it has seen these type of benches popping up all over the world using the same wording Allison used on the very first one.

Countries, where these ‘Happy to Chat’ benches have popped up, include Australia, Canada, Switzerland, the United States and Ukraine.

Many older people with mobility problems feel lonely and isolated, but with the latest stairlifts, you can get around the home and are not stuck to residing in just a couple of rooms. Loneliness in the elderly is common as a study found that 49% of people over the age of 65 say that pets or television are their main form of company. It also revealed that more than one million older people say they always or often feel lonely.

These ‘Happy to Chat’ benches have been found in Cardiff, Barry, Tenby, Abergavenny, Porthcawl and Newport in Wales as well as Brighton, Merseyside, Altrincham and Barnstaple in England.

This news article is from Handicare UK. Articles that appear on this website are for information purposes only.