Things I can do today – for myself and for others
People feel lonely for all sorts of reasons. Sometimes, a particular event or change in
circumstances may trigger these feelings, or you may have felt lonely for a long time without really knowing why. Although most people need some kind of social contact to maintain good mental health, everyone has different social needs. You may be someone who is content with a few close friends, or you may need a large group of varied people to feel satisfied.
The good news is that there are things we all can do within our neighbourhoods and workplaces to enable ourselves and others to feel more supported and less alone:
• Start with your street — say hello when you see people and try to get to know your neighbours. If you’re stuck for something to say, have a look at the conversation starters starters in the section Understanding.
• Take a look at the people around you where you live and work — what can you do to foster new friendships and be more inclusive? Building personal networks and stronger neighbourhoods and communities will make a difference.
• Hold a street party or a Big Lunch and start connecting neighbours where you live – around 50% of people who organise one say they feel less isolated as a result. Website: edenprojectcommunities.com/thebiglunchhomepage
• Start or join a social network for your area like nextdoor.co.uk and meetup.com or local groups on Twitter.com, like @BerksWalkers; a walking group for people in their 20s and 30s. Use Facebook groups like The Ding, Breastfeeding Berkshire and Tilehurst Gossip Girls to connect with people face to face. Caution: don’t give out your personal details like your address or phone number. Meet new friends in a public place like a café.
• Volunteer with a community group in your area, which is helping to reduce loneliness and social isolation. Reading has lots of volunteer opportunities for people wanting to be a befriender and Reading Voluntary Action can help find the right opportunity that suits you best.
• Drop in at a.….drop-in! Reading Community Learning Centre, Reading Refugee Support Group, Katesgrove toddler group, The Grange Memory Cafe, LGBT+ Affinity Youth Group and many other groups have regular drop-ins in the town centre and local neighbourhoods.
• Find out what’s on in Reading and maybe ask a friend or neighbour to go with you – to a café, the cinema, a street food market, a pub, the park for a kick-about, or a walk around Forbury Gardens on a sunny day. Finding out what’s on near me in the section Help and Resources
Volunteer for a Befriending or Buddying Service
There are lots of opportunities in Reading to volunteer as a befriender or a buddy to someone wanting to get out and about. These organisations would be delighted to hear from you!
• AgeUK Reading befriending service – for older people Tel: 0118 950 2480 or website: Age UK Reading
• AgeUK Berkshire befriending service – for older people Tel: 0118 959 4242 or website: Age UK Berkshire
• Alzheimer’s Society Side by Side service – linking people of all ages living with dementia to volunteers, so they can keep doing the things they love. Tel: 0118 959 6482 or website: alzheimers.org.uk
• Engage Befriending – for older people Tel: 0118 956 7000 or website: engagebefriending.org
• Enrych Berkshire – offering disabled people of all ages a stepping stone to a more colourful life. Tel: 0844 412 7501 or website: enrychberkshire.org.uk
• Get Berkshire Active – be an activity buddy for people of all ages wanting to enjoying the benefits of more and better sport in Berkshire. Tel: 01628 472851 or website: getberkshireactive.org
Other kinds of volunteering opportunities
RVA always has an up-to-date list of dozens of volunteering opportunities in Reading, which you can find online, by phone or dropping in – see back page for contact details.
Set up a group or run and activity
Sometimes, knowing where to start can feel a bit daunting and you may need a bit of extra support to get going in your neighbourhood or community.
Reading Voluntary Action is the go-to place for anyone wanting to start up something in their neighbourhood or community. RVA can help you with information, news, legal advice, access to resources, publicity, volunteer recruitment and training. Their Ready Friends Project supports local communities and charities to reduce social isolation and loneliness – and it produced this guide! Tel: 0118 937 2273 email: firstname.lastname@example.org or website: rva.org.uk
Reading Borough Council provides a range of support services to local communities through their Neighbourhood and Adult Social Care Teams. Phone: 0118 937 3787 or website: www.reading.gov.uk