It is frequently quoted that between 250,000 and 500,000 older people face Christmas alone – Community Christmas started in 2011 because there was no coordinated effort to change that. Five years later for Christmas Day 2016 Community Christmas listed over 620 events and activities on its database. At these events, people will have made connections within their communities that may last well beyond Christmas day itself. Although I have already been awarded a Point of Light for this work I feel the need to do more to help break down barriers and connect individuals face to face.
Friendly and supportive communities have been shown to improve the social, emotional and physical health of individuals and community focussed businesses can also benefit from an improved reputation, which ultimately leads to more customers. The stumbling point comes when the organisations seeking to connect individuals and communities are constrained by the need for funding and management.
We’re not mind readers and in open spaces cannot know when we are intruding and when we are welcome – Chat Mats from Coffee Companions may be the answer, giving individuals the choice to display the green side (Say Hello) or the red side (Not Today). With Chat Mats everyone can have control of their social contact in any place offering refreshments, with the outlet providing as little or as much support as they want to beyond ‘business as normal’. There is no need for volunteers, no need for room hire, and no restriction to specific times just minimal investment in Chat Mats and letting people know they are available.
During the testing phase one older lady came to a new café for coffee – she noted the menu on the table and how affordable lunch was. This gave her an alternative environment to spend time in when she didn’t want to cook for herself, and the fact that she now knew it to be friendly and welcoming makes her much more likely to return.
This is not about charity. This is about social change. This is for anyone, anywhere at any time. #ChatMatters.
I hope that you will print and try our free tester Mats, share the idea with friends and colleagues, and let me know if you want to get involved in improving our communities for everyone.