PEOPLE experiencing isolation and loneliness are being encouraged to use a new seating area at the intu Braehead shopping centre where they can sit in specially-created seats called Chatty Chairs.
It’s the first time a Scots shopping mall has installed a seating area that actively encourages people to talk to each other.
And today/yesterday Scotland’s Finance Secretary, Derek Mackay launched intu Braehead’s Chatty Chairs initiative with signage that says: “Take a seat if you don’t mind having a chat.”
The intu Braehead Chatty Chairs are in the upper mall and are configured to make it easy for shoppers to start a conversation with someone sitting next to them.
The move comes after the Age Scotland charity revealed that 282,000 older Scots feel lonely some or most of the time.
The latest Scottish Household Survey also found that one in four people over the age of 60 said they do not meet a friend, neighbour or relative at least once a week.
Derek Mackay, whose constituency takes in the shopping centre, said: “This innovative idea from intu Braehead to provide a seated area where people can start a conversation with someone will help tackle the very real problem of loneliness in our community.
“This is exactly the type of initiative the Scottish Government would encourage as part of our strategy to deal with social isolation and loneliness.
“Feelings of being alone in the world can have a significant adverse impact on someone’s physical and mental well-being.
“I’d like to congratulate the team at intu Braehead for creating the Chatty Chairs seating area, as it’s up to all of us to reach out in a compassionate way to make everyone feel welcome and valued in our communities.
“I hope the Chatty Chairs will be well used and that people will stop for even a few minutes to speak to each other.”
The move by the shopping mall to encourage visitors who would like a chat to use the seats has been praised by Age Scotland.
Brian Sloan, Age Scotland’s chief executive said: “This is a wonderful initiative which will hopefully give people of all ages the chance to have a chat with someone new and perhaps even forge new friendships.
“Often a smile and a friendly chat can make all the difference to someone who is experiencing loneliness.
“It would be great if the Chatty Chairs helped to stimulate more conversation and social interaction between the generations and younger people were encouraged to spend more time with older people they know.”
Lydia Brown, intu Braehead’s community development manager said: “The simple act of stopping to say hello to someone sitting on one of our Chatty Chairs could make a huge difference if they are feeling lonely.
“A few minutes chat started by a simple ‘hello’, or ‘how you doing, today?’ could make someone’s life a whole lot better and make them feel less isolated.
“We recognise loneliness is a problem for many people – of all ages – and we hope our Chatty Chairs initiative can play a small part in combating feelings of loneliness and isolation.”
Older people in Scotland can contact Age Scotland’s free Community Connecting service on 0800 12 44 222 to find local groups and activities which are of interest to them to help get them more engaged with others.