Happy to Chat Benches

The idea of ‘Happy to Chat’ benches seems to have been started by Avon and Somerset Police, who added chat benches in Vivary Park in Taunton and Burnham-On-Sea’s seafront to help tackle loneliness and isolation in the community. They did this by adding signs to benches that read ‘Sit here if you don’t mind someone stopping to say hello’.

In the UK, more than a million older people say they always or often feel lonely, according to Age UK. A review found 17% of older people talk to family, friends or neighbours less than once a week. For many, it is even more scarce than that.

The simple message: ‘Stop and say hello’

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.

Public benches can help improve people’s mental health and social wellbeing as they serve as resting places for those with limited mobility and also combat loneliness and isolation, according to research.

A study by the University of Sheffield found that sitting on benches allows people to spend longer outside, which is beneficial for mental health and connects them with others in their community. This is particularly important for people who find popular social venues like cafes too expensive.

Avon and Somerset Police Commissioner Sue Mountstevens, said “The Chat Bench is a fantastic new initiative that I hope encourages those of all ages to start many more conversations in the future. If you think an elderly friend, neighbour or relative is vulnerable or at risk of loneliness, I encourage you to stop by and say ‘hello.’ It really could make a huge difference to that person.”

Five tips that start with ‘Hello’

Here’s five top tips to combat loneliness in society.

1. Smile and chat to your neighbour.

2. Help with an event at your child’s school.

3. Don’t just pack your food shopping in silence, chat to the cashier.

4. Join an event in your community.

5. Look up from your phone.

Click here to download the poster for your bench
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