The Friendly Bench® – An Escape from Loneliness
Updated: Nov 15, 2021
Sadly, isolation is something that affects too many of us, particularly in the aftermath of the pandemic. Lots of people silently suffer from loneliness and are unsure of how to solve it. But it’s important to remember that there is no shame in feeling alone. According to the Office for National Statistics, “almost one in 14 people, aged 16 or over in Great Britain, say they are lonely. Up 40% since last spring.”
After experiencing loneliness first-hand, Lyndsey Young created a solution that would benefit her and her community: The Friendly Bench®. This is a volunteer-led social enterprise that aims to combat isolation, by building inviting outdoor spaces that connect people with their community.
The Friendly Bench® CIC has built safe, accessible community gardens with comfortable seating and sensory planting. The Friendly Bench® are carefully integrated into communities to provide a safe, free meeting spot that allows people to meet new people whilst connecting with nature.
Each The Friendly Bench® is funded and managed by its own volunteer group. The volunteers use The Friendly Bench® as venues for free activities and community get togethers. These events have allowed people to enjoy themselves and develop a support system.
The Success Story of The Friendly Bench®
The first bench was built in Bottesford, Leicestershire in 2018. In it’s first year this The Friendly BenchⓇwelcomed over 530 attendees to their monthly events and has shared training events with other community organisations and public health services. Since then, eleven more The Friendly Bench® have been installed across the UK.
The Friendly Bench® has improved people’s mental health by instilling a sense of belonging. For many users, The Friendly Bench® are their main source of socialising. Betty, 84, wrote:
“It’s wonderful to have The Friendly Bench® near my home, now I am able to go outside and meet my friends.”
In 2019 The Friendly Bench® was awarded £242,713 from The National Lottery Community Fund for their efforts.
Following this, two The Friendly Bench® network members, Halesowen In Bloom, and Brandon In Bloom entered into the Royal Horticultural Society bid, and both managed to win awards. Below are some of the judge’s comments.
Halesowen In Boom, who won the Urban Community category:
“Halesowen In Bloom continues to create a splendid show of colourful plantings across the whole town, and continues to encourage and empower local communities, organisations, and businesses to get involved.”
Brandon In Bloom, who won the Cultivating Your Community category:
“We have every confidence that this project will successfully assist to combat loneliness and social isolation. We think your project will make a great case study that can be shared with other community groups. There are many communities across the UK where such a project can be replicated to good effect.”
The Friendly Bench CIC invite other charities and business improvement districts to join them, so that together they can serve their communities. The Friendly Bench® will positively impact vulnerable people by decreasing their depression, encouraging exercise, and affirming their purpose. It will also serve to strengthen the communities that The Friendly Bench® are placed in, by forming connections that would not have otherwise existed. Finally, The Friendly Bench® will add vibrancy and beauty, ultimately making the area more enjoyable to live in.
If you would like to learn more about The Friendly Bench® and how to join The Friendly Bench® network, please visit: https://www.thefriendlybench.co.uk/join