An innovative community garden designed to overcome loneliness, social isolation and improve the quality of life amongst the elderly is capturing the imagination of community groups, care homes and politicians across the UK since it’s launch earlier in the year.
Created and founded by Lyndsey Young, supported by the Big Lottery Fund and launched in Bottesford, Leicestershire by Rt Hon Sir Alan Duncan MP, The Friendly Bench™ is a purposefully designed and located kerbside community garden created to help tackle loneliness, social isolation and improve the quality of life for the elderly, socially isolated and those with limited mobility by connecting them with people, places and with nature.
Connecting people – Offering regular opportunities for social interaction, growing and strengthening social networks and improving well-being amongst older people and the wider community through friendship, events and activities organised by The Friendly Bench™ volunteers.
Connecting places – Purposefully designed and situated, The Friendly Bench™ provides a convenient and comfortable place for those with limited mobility to rest, helping them to connect with local services and public places, whilst also encouraging independence and opportunities for residents to participate in their wider communities as they choose.
Connecting with nature – Enabling easy accessible interactions with nature, wildlife and the outdoors to improve users physical health, mental wellbeing, social behaviour and help improve self- esteem and life satisfaction.
A welcoming place for all to meet, chat, rest and enjoy the benefits of being outdoors, The Friendly Bench is so much more than a bench and has been carefully designed to create a safe, easily accessible garden for the elderly and those with limited mobility to enjoy. Made with sustainable FSC timber, including solid oak, the seating has been purposely designed to adhere to DDA Guidance and is configured with easy access raised planters, complete with plants and organic herbs, to enable intergenerational garden maintenance, whilst providing a ‘self-contained’ environment which promotes conversation, connection and independence.
“The Friendly Bench is a really fantastic and innovative project which I am confident will help combat loneliness in our local community.” Rt Hon Sir Alan Duncan MP
With plans to extend the project nationwide, Lyndsey Young said:
“The Friendly Bench™ plays a vital role in tackling loneliness amongst older people and those with restricted mobility in our communities.
By creating an inclusive, accessible and well-located place to meet and join in with regularly organised activities, The Friendly Bench™ is a hub for people to connect. This not only helps improve our older people’s physical and mental wellbeing, it also helps develop and strengthen community connections and build relationships between residents and their wider community.
With the full backing of Sir Alan Duncan MP and also Rachel Reeves MP, co-chair of the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness, who recently mentioned The Friendly Bench™ in her Westminster Hall debate on loneliness, The Friendly Bench also has the full support of it’s local Nottingham Community Housing Association’s Sheltered Housing Scheme.
Scheme Manager Jim Anstey comments: “Some of our residents have been put off going to the shops due to the distance. The bench will give them the confidence to venture out, using it as a pit stop along the way! I think The Friendly Bench is a great idea. It will encourage people to socialise with their neighbours and passers by and become part of the local community.
After successfully developing and launching the first The Friendly Bench model, the aim now is to partner with other communities and grow The Friendly Bench network. Offering a full design, build installation, training to support set up and operation package, as well as funding solutions and advice, Lyndsey and her team would work closely with each community to develop The Friendly Bench to cater for their bespoke needs.
To find out more about The Friendly Bench™ and how you can join The Friendly Bench™ network, please visit www.thefriendlybench.co.uk. You can also keep up to date with what’s going on over on our Facebook page @TheFriendlyBench - Twitter @Friendly_Bench and Instagram: @TheFriendlyBench