For Dementia Awareness Week from 20-26 May this year, the Housing LIN has gathered examples of where extra care schemes or other housing related community services have supported people with dementia to develop meaningful relationships to prevent unwanted social isolation or reduce loneliness.
The examples range from informal arrangements supported by staff or other residents as well as more formal service provision. Today’s example of best practice comes from The Friendly Bench CIC.
The Friendly Bench – a community based solution
The Friendly Bench is an innovative kerbside community space.
Specifically designed, The Friendly Bench is a safe, easily accessible mini-community garden with integrated seating situated on unused space within communities for people to meet, chat, and connect with each other, to places and with nature, reducing social isolation and increasing community cohesion.
These kerbside community parklets have been envisaged to help encourage connections between communities, help tackle loneliness, encourage physical, mental and social activity and improve the quality of life of all, including the elderly, socially isolated and those with limited mobility's life, by connecting them with people, to places and with nature.
Welcoming, inclusive and accessible outdoor social spaces for all, the core principles that guide The Friendly Bench are:
Connecting people – Offering regular opportunities for social interaction and engaging in community life, growing and strengthening social networks, improving confidence and well-being amongst older people, the socially isolated and those with limited mobility and their wider community through friendship and is the focus for monthly community events and activities.
Connecting places – Purposefully designed and situated, The Friendly Bench provides a safe, easy to navigate and comfortable place for those with dementia and/or limited mobility to rest, enabling access to local amenities and public places which helps contribute to people being able to live independent and fulfilling lives.
Connecting with nature – Enabling easily accessible interactions with nature, wildlife and the outdoors to help improve physical health, mental wellbeing, memory, communication, social behaviour and help improve self- esteem and life satisfaction.
In its first twelve months, The Friendly Bench pilot has:
- Provided regular volunteering opportunities to 15 people though regular activities at The Friendly Bench
- Created a friendly, supportive environment where neighbours of all ages and abilities have met, often for the first time, felt valued, understood and a part of their wider community.
- Engaged 495 attendees at one or more of the monthly volunteer-led activities/events at The Friendly Bench, including a Royal Wedding Party, Eden Project’s The Big Walk visit/celebration, Great Get Together, Blokes, Brew and Banter and Defibrillator Training Event.
- Reconnected old friends, introduced people to new acquaintances and linked residents living in Housing Association-owned independent living properties to their wider community.
- Introduced and encouraged other community organisations, public health and public services to engage with a wider and more diverse audience through attendance at and shared training events.
Contact details: Lyndsey Young, Founder of The Friendly Bench CIC firstname.lastname@example.org
Note: The views expressed in this feature have been provided by the featured organisations and are not necessarily those of the Housing Learning and Improvement Network.
If you have any examples from your own organisation that you would like to share please send details to Katey Twyford and Wendy Wells, Housing and Dementia co-leads for the Housing LIN, email@example.com. We will be developing a compendium of best practice examples to go on the Housing LIN website.