Do you feel lonely? If you do, you are not alone. While you may think it’s a personal mental health issue, the collective social impact is an epidemic.
You may also underestimate the effects of loneliness. The health impact of chronic social isolation is as bad as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
Loneliness is a global issue. Half-a-million Japanese are suffering from social isolation. The UK recently appointed a minister for loneliness, the first in the world. In Australia, Victorian state MP Fiona Patten is calling for the same here. Federal MP Andrew Giles, in a recent speech, said:
I’m convinced we need to consider responding to loneliness as a responsibility of government.
What do cities have to do with loneliness?
“The way we build and organise our cities can help or hinder social connection,” reads a Grattan Institute report.
Think of the awkward silence in a lift full of passengers who never communicate. Now think of a playground where parents often begin chatting. It’s not that the built environment “causes” interaction, but it can certainly either enable or constrain potential interaction.
Winston Churchill once observed that we shape the buildings and then the buildings shape us. I have written elsewhere about how architects and planners, albeit unwittingly, are complicit in producing an urban landscape that contributes to an unhealthy mental landscape.
Can we think of different ways to be in the city, of a different architecture that can “cure” loneliness?
Taking this question as a point of departure, I recently conducted a graduate design studio at the Melbourne School of Design. The students, using design as a research methodology, came up with potential architectural and urban responses to loneliness.
Have you ever waited at a rail station, killing time without engaging with the person next to you? Diana Ong retrofitted the Ascot Vale rail station with multiple “social engagement paraphernalia” to promote conversations and activity. Michelle Curnow proposed to convert railway carriages into “sensory experience cabins” that attract people to explore the in-built gallery spaces and listen to other people’s stories while commuting. Who said commuting had to be boring?
Having a pet is one of the most effective ways to tackle loneliness, but often people don’t have enough time to care for one. Zi Ye came up with “Puppy Society”, an app that connects a pet with multiple owners. The dogs are housed in a shared facility where the owners come to pet the dog.
Denise Chan studied the Melbourne CBD laneways and found many of them are quite dead, despite being an icon of Melburnian liveliness. She reimagined the laneways revitalised with community plant gardens, book nooks and furniture to entice people to enter them and connect, say, during office lunch hours.
Are you one of those people who have a hard time eating alone? Fanhui Ding is, and she came up with a student-run restaurant for the University of Melbourne. Students get credit working on the aquaponic farms that supply the restaurant, which can be used to pay for a meal. People also get discounts for dining at the same table, encouraging students to interact over food. Given the many international students who suffer from loneliness, her concept used cooking, food and farming as therapeutic activity.
Beverley Wang looked at loneliness in the ageing population. She came up with a project called “Nurture”, for which she designed a kindergarten co-housed with a nursing home. Designing spaces for storytelling, she brought the elderly into the kindergarten as informal learning aides, giving them a sense of purpose.
There is an utterly different kind of loneliness that accompanies the loss of a loved one. Malak Moussaoui, taking note of this, designed an installation that grows flowers on itself to be inserted into cemeteries. Instead of just buying some flowers on the way, Malak’s design is meant to bring people together, introduce flower gardening as a therapeutic measure and give people spaces to mourn together. They might then meet other people who share similar stories of loss and connect.
Other students tackled more familiar cases, such as designing more social interaction spaces in high-rise apartment buildings and redesigning supermarkets to make them places for people to visit on a Sunday morning. The student work can be viewed here.
Moving beyond merely analysing the problems, the research output shows that an alternative, less lonely future is indeed possible. Without claiming to solve loneliness, design can be a important tool in response to it.
About The Author
Tanzil Shafique, PhD Researcher in Urban Design, University of Melbourne
Como Prevenir La Soledad, La Depresion Y El Suicidio En Ninos Y Jovenes/ Preventing Loneliness, Depression and Suicide Among Children and Teenagers (Spanish Edition)
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Description in Spanish: ¿Quién, como miembro del conjunto social, no se cuestiona ante el hecho contundente del suicidio de un niño o un adolescente? ¿Cuáles son las razones profundas que subyacen a los motivos aparentes para tomar esta decisión? ¿Qué podemos hacer padres, docentes y, en general, ciudadanos para entender a fondo y, sobre todo, evitar este fenómeno que cada vez se generaliza más en el mundo? Éstas son algunas de las preguntas alrededor de las cuales gira la excelente reflexión que Miguel de Zubiría nos trae en este libro. Su análisis del suicidio infantil y juvenil lo lleva a estudiar los sustratos más importantes del ser humano: el social, el psicológico y el afectivo; y en este recorrido, soportado por estudios prácticos y teóricos reconocidos, el autor nos permite comprender que la mejor prevención es la buena crianza, una que permita a los niños y jóvenes crecer fortalecidos, con amplias habilidades sociales y psicológicas que les den las herramientas suficientes para enfrentar y superar los problemas y los aleje de la idea de evadirlos de la manera más aterradora que pueden elegir. También encontramos en estas páginas la manera en que podemos detectar las señales que indican que un niño o joven ha iniciado el proceso suicida, con el fin de identificar a tiempo el problema y así buscar las soluciones pertinentes en cada caso. Se estudia cada paso del proceso, cuáles son las causas profundas y los factores estructurales y predisponentes que impulsan a tomar la decisión de quitarse la vida: la fragilidad, la soledad y la depresión. Por último, el autor presenta un completo capítulo con ejercicios y cuestionarios que le ayudarán a descubrir si algún niño o joven cercano a usted (su hijo o alumno) está en riesgo de cometer suicidio. En definitiva, más que un compendio de teorías y disertaciones, el presente libro es un manual de crianza y una guía certera en el tema del suicidio infantil y juvenil, que tiene como objetivo final salvar, preservar y mejorar las vidas de los más jóvenes de la sociedad.
Preventing social isolation and loneliness among older people: Effectiveness of health promotion interventions
- Preventing Social Isolation and Loneliness Among Older People
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Dynamics of Communication and Sex: Effective Keys to Preventing Relationship Breakdowns. Enjoying the Benefits of Maintaining a Healthy Sex Life in your ... (Improving Your Relationship Series Book 2)
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When a child is whiny at the end of a long day at Disney you know it is because they are tired and have expended their energy. They are on overload and don’t know how to handle it. You can’t reason your child out of their irritable state. They just need sleep. You are patient with them because you understand their needs. We are willing to be patient with our children, but why are we so unwilling to respond to the needs of our spouse with the same kind of patient understanding? The purpose of this book is to help you appreciate the motivation of your mate. When you do understand their motivation you can be more patient with them and seek to work with them more effectively.
Why does she have to talk and give every detail of what went on in the day? Why does he come home and reveal nothing or very little of what went on in his day but instead just wants to sit around and do nothing or go out and play sports or work in the garage? Do you know what motivates a woman to ask all those questions? Do you know her deepest need? Do you know of the loneliness in her soul? Do you know why he doesn’t think it is so important to connect with you by sharing the details of his day?
Why does he seem to have only one thing on his mind? How can we have a disagreement and then after we have sex he thinks everything is all right and settled? Do you understand those deep needs of a man and why he functions like he does? He may not even understand why sex is so important to him either.
This book seeks to help you understand what motivates your mate so you can better understand them and therefore respond in appropriate ways. Also, this may give you insight as to why you are motivated to do what you do. With understanding comes the potential for change as well as the enrichment of your relationship. Without understanding you will continue to do the same old thing and be frustrated in your relationship. Will you choose continual frustration or decide to pursue enrichment?
As you read this book you will find yourself saying “my partner needs to read this because now I understand why I feel or act that way. I just haven’t been able to articulate the importance of my needs clearly before. I want them to understand me better.” The more we understand our own needs and how they fulfill us when they are met, the easier it is to understand the needs of our mate and, therefore, to value them.
The title I’ve chosen for this book is “The Dynamics of Communication and Sex.“ The word Dynamic means “Change producing force: the forces that tend to produce activity and change in any situation or sphere of existence”. The content of this book helps you focus your understanding on the dynamics of sex and communication in your relationship.
After one of my sessions in reworking this manuscript I was taking a trip with my wife and I said, “I wish we had a book like this available when we first got married for it would have given us better understanding of each other and helped us avoid a lot of mistakes.” It is my desire that this book can help you avoid common pitfalls and deepen your relationship. Enjoy the journey!