“All the lonely people, Where do they all come from? All the lonely people Where do they all belong? “
The Beatles, 1966.
Loneliness is a global epidemic and the Melbourne School of Design together with the Victoria State Government is seeking a solution in inner-city design. According to some researchers, the effect of chronic social isolation is as bad as 15 cigarettes a day on the health.
If you think this is a joke, think again, the UK recently appointed a Minister of Loneliness (not a Monty Python Script), and in Japan, there are half a million people that suffer from the ailment of social isolation.
Based on certain concepts, the way cities are built leads to isolation and loneliness. A Grattan Institute reports states that “The way we build and organize our cities can help or hinder social connection.”
It seems that architecture has an impact on more than just compartmentalizing and creating light and shadow, it also impacts how we feel and react with ourselves and our surroundings and the environment.
There have been a number of observations and ideas to create ways to channel interactivity between strangers and not via online apps, but in real life, where people interact and chat when standing in a line waiting for a bus, a train or a bank teller.
Pets are also considered to be a viable option to combat loneliness, and this leads to pet parks and pet community areas for likeminded pet owners to meet and interact.
Other ideas include redesigned lanes and ways made to enhance and uplift the spirit of the walker with small community gardens, book and reading nooks and different furniture to entice people to sit, relax, or just interact.
Other ideas that were presented were student eating arrangements where students get discounts for sitting with other students while eating, opening up in conversation.
An even more inventive and clever idea was to combine a nursery/kindergarten with a nursing home and let the elderly enjoy helping with the children, reading stories, playing and generally both having a good time together.
There are many ways to alleviate loneliness; it just takes time and effort and collaboration of the community and the government to develop environments that battle isolation.