The Avon and Somerset Police Department in England have begun designating specific public benches as a way to fight loneliness and social isolation. Local police forces said these benches can be used for making friends and starting conversations.
The public benches, called “Chat Benches”, are designated in two different parks and outdoor areas in Somerset. They can be identified by little signs that read: “Sit here if you don’t mind someone stopping to say hello!”
Recently, the Avon and Somerset Police Department posted photos of their two new “Chat Benches” on their official Facebook page. The new benches, located in Burnham and Taunton, are complete with an encouraging message for readers to stop by and use them for socialization.
“The sign simply helps to break down the invisible, social barriers that exists between strangers who find themselves sharing a common place. We can all play a part…” says the police department on its Facebook page. “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 police department says that 17% of older people are only in contact with family, friends and neighbors less than once a week, resulting in isolation. As a whole, this amounts to about 9 million UK residents who experience loneliness and isolation every year.
The Chat Bench initiative was launched earlier this month to coincide with United Nations World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. Though the police say that there are many different forms of elder abuse which require attention, they are hoping that the Chat Benches can help fight senior loneliness in their communities.
“The Chat Bench is fantastic new initiative that I hope encourages those of all ages to start many more conversations in the future,” says Police and Crime Commissioner Sue Mountstevens. “I encourage you to stop by and say ‘hello’. It really could make a huge difference to that person.”
Source: Good News Network