Friendly benches: where friendship grows

As the saying goes, “April showers bring May flowers”.

But what if the showers started back in January, not with rain, but with warmth and camaraderie, from the regular members who attend the Devon Dumpling coffee morning, (Tuesdays 11am to 12.30), from discussions to ideas taking shape?

Imagine a community where benches aren’t just places to rest weary legs but serve as hubs for human connections, laughter and support.

In recent years, friendly benches have gained momentum in neighbourhoods, offering more than just a spot to sit. These benches are strategically placed in public spaces to foster social interaction and combat feelings of isolation and loneliness. Individuals, young and old, find solace in the simple act of sitting together; whether it’s sharing stories of past adventures or discussing dreams for the future, these benches become catalysts for meaningful conversations.

As the days lengthen and the weather warms, the spirit of cama- raderie blossoms alongside the flowers of spring. April showers may drizzle down but bonds are strength- ened beneath the canopy of the friendly bench and spirits are lifted.

Individuals no longer feel alone; instead, they find kinship among fellow bench sitters. The impact of these benches extends far beyond casual chit-chat. Studies have shown that social interaction plays a crucial role in mental and emotional wellbeing, reducing the risk of depression and anxiety, by providing a space for people to connect; friendly benches become pillars of mental health support within the community.

The benefits of friendly benches don’t shop there. They also contribute to the overall vibrancy and cohesion of neighbourhoods. As people gather and converse, they become more invested in their community, leading to increased civic engagement and greater pride in where they live. As April fades into May and the showers give way to sunshine, the legacy of the friendly bench endures. It stands as a testament to the power of human connection and the importance of fostering inclusive spaces where loneliness cannot thrive.

So let your community embrace the spirit of the friendly bench, for in doing so, we cultivate not only friendships but a stronger, more resilient community for all. Across Torbay, look out for your friendly benches, which will have special discs saying friendly bench, sit and chat.

If you would like to be more involved with your community, or volunteer, please contact me on 07548 704878 or email me [email protected]. The Torbay Community Helpline’s number is 01803 446022.