What does social isolation mean to you?

In the first of a series of blog posts taking a closer look at some of the different wellbeing activities in the city, Ruth looks at the different ways communities in Liverpool are trying to combat social isolation.
Image of 'The Happy Chat Bench' in Sefton Park Palmhouse

What does Social Isolation mean to you?

Be honest, is your first instinct be to use your phone to Google ‘social isolation’ for news items and facts? Or would you feel comfortable looking up and starting a conversation with the person next to you about what it might mean to them?

Do you think of it as something that doesn’t directly affect you, or could we all benefit from a bit more social interaction in our lives?

When many people think of social isolation, their thoughts immediately go to elderly people who live alone, but what about new mums looking after babies? Students who have moved to a new city? People who care for a loved one?  Or even you and I, who don’t always look up from our phones to engage in conversation with each other?

Studies have found that the effects of social isolation can be as harmful to health as cigarette smoking and obesity and that social isolation can even increase the risk of developing coronary heart disease and stroke.

So what can we do to help ourselves and others?

With its reputation of being a city that ‘loves to talk’, it’s not surprising that Liverpool is leading the way in providing ways to get people talking again.

FIKA café (Woolton Road) offers a free tea and toast for pensioners session every Tuesday and Thursday morning, but the emphasis is on the social interaction, with the free refreshments being a (possibly much needed) bonus. The name ‘FIKA’ comes from the Swedish concept of fika which loosely translates as a coffee and cake break, however it’s less about the food and more about the socialising and companionship.

The owners of FIKA café would love for pensioners to be able to have a space to speak to other people and share stories. Although the free tea and toast is only available to the pensioners, all ages are welcome to come and have a chat and make new friends.

Cosy Club in Liverpool One is also running a similar initiative but this is open to all ages and backgrounds.

Their ‘Free Teas for Those in Need’ session (Wednesdays 10-11am) is set round a large table full of tea, coffee, sweets, cake, snacks and board games. The idea is that anyone in need of social interaction can come and sit at the table and get involved. Cosy Club are keen for their staff to join in too.

On a more ad-hoc basis, ‘sit and chat’ tables and benches are popping up all over the city. In the last couple of weeks I have seen a bench in Sefton Park Palm House (pictured at the top of the page) and a table in the café at Friends Meeting House (School Lane).

These areas are clearly labeled as places where people who don’t mind chatting to someone new can sit. The café staff said they had seen lots of positive interactions at the chat table since it started a year ago.

So, with lots of opportunities to sit and chat and studies proving that helping others makes us happy and can actually improve our health it definitely is ‘good to talk’.

For the latest updates from Ruth, follow @LiveWellLpool on Twitter.

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