Happy to Chat bench

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 socialise with strangers.

For people who feel isolated in their daily lives, these 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. Inspired by the original ‘Happy to Chat’ campaign, an existing bench has been selected and to signpost those looking for a chat, a large sign has been displayed above the bench near The Works, reading ‘Sit here if you don’t mind someone stopping to say hello’. The idea is a simple one that encourages visitors to the centre to strike up a conversation and make a connection with someone new; promoting happy and friendly communities in Middleton.

Marie Gribben, Centre Manager, said: “This is a compassionate, community-led initiative that has quickly spread around the globe, and although it’s not Middleton born, I’m really proud to be welcoming a ‘Happy to Chat’ bench in Middleton. 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. If this is well received, we may well introduce another bench within the shopping centre or collaborate with the local authority to introduce one in the town centre. This simple idea of just giving people permission to stop and chat is a great way to help defeat loneliness and develop a keener sense of community.’

For more information on Time to Change and Time to Talk, visit their website: https://www.time-to-change.org.uk/.

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