Loneliness is a serious health condition, but unlike other ailments, the symptoms of loneliness can be hard to detect to everyone but the person having them.
A new initiative in the UK aims to combat the problem by making it easier for people who feel alone to socialize with strangers. As Yahoo! reports, the police department of Burnham-On-Sea, in southwest England, has posted signs designating some public seating as “chat benches.”
Two were unveiled in a park in nearby Taunton and one was installed on the waterfront in Burnham-On-Sea. The signs read: “The ‘Happy to Chat’ Bench: Sit Here If You Don’t Mind Someone Stopping To Say Hello.”
For people who feel isolated in their daily lives, the benches are an opportunity to make a connection with someone new. They also give people who want to help the lonely members of their community a way to do so.
The initiative was launched to coincide with United Nations World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. According to a recent poll, more than a third of seniors reported feeling a lack of companionship at least some of the time.
While the project was conceived with the elderly population in mind, the Burnham-On-Sea police department encourages residents of all ages to use the chat benches.