LONELINESS, according to researchers at Brunel and London Universities, is as bad for your health as smoking or being obese.
Compared to the average person, people reporting to be lonely have a 14 per cent greater chance of dying.
On a wet windy day in 2017 Alex Hoskyn was in an English supermarket café with her four month old son. He wasn’t great company and she was feeling fed up.
She looked round the café and saw an older lady who looked just as down as she did and on another table sat a young guy with special needs and his support worker both looking like they had run out of conversation.
She started to think about the positive impact they could all have had on each other if they had sat together, knowing from experience that when you are feeling lonely, a short conversation with another human can really brighten your day and she realised that you can be out of the house all day yet have no interaction with another person.
This led to her starting the ‘Chatter and Natter’ table.
Cafés throughout the UK were persuaded to designate one table in supporting cafés as a ‘Chatter and Natter’ table where customers can sit if they are happy to talk to other people.
The scheme aims to tackle loneliness by bringing people of all ages together, from mums with their babies to the elderly and anybody in between.
“Many older adults are vulnerable because they are lonely, but in actual fact there are so many people in other age groups who feel the same way and we can all help each other,” said Ms Hoskyn.
“I want our Chatter and Natter tables to be the norm in café culture across the world, providing opportunities for people to get together,” she said.
Last year Have a Go News reported that the Chatty Café Scheme had been recognised by an Innovation for Ageing Award from the International Longevity Centre.
And now Chatty Cafés have arrived in Australia.
Glenys Reid, managing director of the Chatty Café Scheme Australia Ltd, a registered charity, contacted Have a Go News, last month.
“I thought you might like to know that I have launched the Scheme recently in Australia. There is definitely need given COVID-19 but there was a significant need anyway in Australia before COVID. I wanted to try and do something about it.
“We are still working on the website for Australia but have a good Facebook site – please like it if you like it!
Ms Reid said the scheme was anxious to set up throughout Australia. The timing was right because Coronavirus pandemic had made the community extra aware of issues of social isolation and mental health.
Café owners were often keen to connect to the community and setting a table aside would achieve this at little or no cost to the business, she said.