This morning I was interviewed on Radio 4’s Woman’s hour as they were talking about social isolation in women in their 20’s and 30’s when they move house.
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My experience was that when I returned to Birmingham after 7 years away, only a handful of my friends were left. I looked for a church where I could settle and make friends. I also actively looked for opportunities to get support and community. As I said in the interview I went to a church project where I was told I could stay for a cuppa this time, but am not welcome to return as I’m not over 75. On another occasion I asked at my GP if they have an benefits advisor that came to the practice, to advised to go to the Children’s Centre; I don’t have any children!

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When students move away from home for the first time they have freshers week and everyone is in the same boat. When people become parents for the first time there are NCT groups and stay and play groups where parents can meet other parents and children. Social isolation is being recognised more and more in those over 75 but the lack of community for those in their 20’s and 30’s is rarely recognised or spoken of. image

I didn’t get to say everything I wanted to in the interview so I thought I’d write down my tips….

  1. As a Christian trying out a few churches in order to find a church to settle in was an obvious place to find a community to join.
  2. I enjoy crafts. I have enjoyed meeting people in my local Spinners Weavers and Dyers Guild. While I’ve been off sick I’ve also joined “Stitch group”. They are a group of elderly ladies that meet every Monday without fail to knit or crochet blankets for Ladywood or Ethiopia. A lot of them are widowed, so live alone, so they ignore bank holidays. Even though I am probably half their age, they make me feel very welcome.
  3. Recently I’ve discovered that there is such a thing as board game cafes and hundreds of game around, not just scrabble and monopoly! These meet up monthly, often in a bar or cafe and although a bit scary to walk into, people are very welcoming. I heard about my local ones via Facebook.
  4. Birmingham had Places of welcome – places where anyone is welcome to drop in at a certain time each week. The places of welcome often provide food for free too, toast, or soup and bread.
  5. Community cafes are another place where you can meet people and everyone is welcome. A local church has a community cafe with cheap food and drinks and a listening ear. They also have a “community lunch” option which you pay for as a donation, however big or small you feel able. Having received such a great welcome there I now volunteer in the cafe. Another option is projects like the Real junk food project where you pay as you feel (PAYF) whether in cash, by waitressing, washing up, even singing a song!
  6. In my last city I used to go to a book club run by a local restaurant. You all read a book, went for a delicious 3 course meal and then discussed the book. Book groups make me feel stupid, so the book part wasn’t really for me, but the meal and meeting interesting people was lovely. Nowadays I much prefer the idea of going to a supper club, delicious food, and hopefully interesting people, but sadly with a price tag I can’t currently afford. Another foodie themed place to meet people would be Clandestine Cake Club but as I’m brand new to baking I’ve never been.
  7. I’ve heard of a a website called Meet up which has lots of meet up groups around the UK. Its something I’ve considered going along to, but not yet had the courage, or the need to go.
  8. I’ve fancied joining the Women’s Institute for years, I went once and was made to feel very welcome, but difficulty getting there meant I didn’t return. Apparently some people enjoy meeting people in sports teams, choirs or orchestras although none of those would suit me.
  9. Another way to meet other people is through volunteering. I currently volunteer in a community cafe. It has helped me to get to know new people, both those I volunteer with and the regulars in the cafe! Charities often have social events too for their volunteers. When I worked for a charity we would have a 3 course meal each Summer and Christmas.
  10. There is community on social media too. I get a lot of peer support from other members of the mental health community on twitter, we even have tea parties! . There are also regular chats that you can be involved with for example #mhchat #pndhour or #wenurses . Social media can be a great way of finding out about local activities particularly Facebook, searching on Twitter or looking on Ravelry if it is craft related.

 

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