Get connected in your community and talk to your neighbours

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Generations and neighbours come together   for The Big Lunch   community drive Generations and neighbours come together for The Big Lunch community drive

Communities aren’t what they used to be.

Passing the time of day with a neighbour isn’t as commonplace today – some people may have lived on the same street for years yet hardly know who their neighbours are.

Streets were far more social than they are now. Mothers who stayed at home to look after their children were more likely to know their neighbours; families used to live side by side.

Today, relations no longer stay in the same area with many spreading their wings and setting up new lives in another part of the world.

Time moves on, but with such changes taking place in our society and with people leading much busier lives, it’s no wonder people can feel isolated within their communities.

According to a new study, talking with a neighbour is the ‘highlight’ of the day for many people in Yorkshire.

With more and more of us living alone, an increase in communication via e-mail and text and feelings of loneliness on the rise, research carried out among 2,000 adults by the Big Lunch, a Lottery-funded initiative to get neighbours together, has found that the simple act of talking to your neighbour is seen by those questioned in Yorkshire as not only a way to ‘brighten someone’s day’ but as a ‘lifeline’ for those living alone.

Tracey Robbins, programme manager for Neighbourhood Approaches to Loneliness, from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation who have carried out studies in Bradford to tackle loneliness and isolation in communities, says: “We know from past work that our relationships are central to our wellbeing.

“We’ve recently undertaken work within four neighbourhoods around loneliness and it was evident that ‘kindness in communities,’ connectedness and those informal support networks are key to reducing loneliness and isolation for ourselves, our friends, neighbours and our local communities. It could happen over a cup of tea, if someone has something on their mind and needs to share it.

“Many of these things are everyday invisible acts, ‘gifts of time’ which almost go unnoticed. People tend not to stop and think too much about the value they have.”

The Big Lunch research reveals that there is more to be done when it comes to making small talk with our neighbours as one in 20 say they have never engaged with a neighbour, while another one in 20 admits it has been years.

Clinical psychologist Tanya Byron says: “It is very easy to trivialise ‘small talk’ as tedious and time wasting, but taking the time to have meaningful but minimal interactions is very important. These are the conversations that have meaning and benefit our immediate community and wider society. They are free, take no time and are impactful.

“These moments are humanising and are an important acknowledgement of the individual. In taking the trouble to talk to your neighbour you may also be helping to reduce their sense of loneliness.”

The Big Lunch is calling on everyone to boost the conversations in their streets and gardens by organising a Big Lunch in their area on Sunday June 1.

For more information or to request a free pack containing invitations and posters as well as seeds, a bunting template and an inspiration booklet, visit thebiglunch.com

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