LVL VISITS “HAPPY TO CHAT” BENCHES IN NEW BRIGHTON!
Three new Happy to Chat benches have been installed along New Brighton's seafront in a bid to stop loneliness in the region.
A trio of Happy to Chat benches have been installed along New Brighton’s famous seafront promenade in a bid to combat loneliness, and encourage people to make new friends!
The ‘Happy to Chat’ benches, situated along the Ian Fraser Walk in New Brighton, were built and commissioned by the Wirral Older People’s Parliament.
Painted orange, the benches stand out from other benches along the shoreline and encourages people to sit down – provided they don’t mind “someone stopping to say hello.”
Dedicated to Wirral St. John’s Hospice and Claire House on the Wirral, members of the Wirral Older People’s Parliament hope this trio of benches will help provide a lifeline to anyone who is feeling isolated, lonely, or struggling with their mental health.
New Brighton is not the first town in the UK to install “Happy to Chat” benches. The scheme has already been launched successfully in places across the UK, such as Burnham-on Sea, Taunton, and Worcester.
The “Happy to Chat” benches offer passers-by an opportunity to unwind and say hello – but for some residents on the Wirral, sitting down here be the only conversation they have all week.
Loneliness is a massive problem on the Wirral, with as many as 35% of residents feeling lonely once a week. Shockingly, this number almost doubles to 64% for people over the age of 60.
Worse still, our elderly community often report feeling ‘disconnected’ from the modern world and 20% of Wirral’s elderly spend a week without speaking to family, friends or neighbours.
For that reason, we travelled down to these benches to see what people thought about the riverfront’s latest additions!
Harriet Wilson, aged 68 from Seacombe, spoke to LVL about the Happy to Chat benches – and she told us her thoughts.
She said: “I used to walk along the prom with my daughter many years ago when she was a little girl. My husband and I taught her how to ride her first bike along with the dips, and we spent many summers here.
Now my daughter lives abroad, my husband has passed away, and although I know I can pick up the phone and talk to her, I don’t know how to FaceTime. I don’t know how to text. I don’t have any family or friends around here.
Sitting here gets all my worries off my chest and makes me realise that I am not alone.”
With the summer holidays on the horizon, many young people are making plans to enjoy themselves.
It is worth remembering: loneliness does not just target the elderly. In fact, the closure of local community centres across the region suggest that young people living in Leasowe, New Brighton and Seacombe are also at risk of developing loneliness.
When we sat on the bench, we spoke to people of all ages – and youngsters in particular praised the Happy to Chat benches for giving them a chance to meet new people without the ‘pressure’ of adopting a ‘persona’.
One young resident, who wished to remain anonymous, told us how the Happy to Chat benches have helped him to cope with a difficult year.
He said: “I lost my mum to cancer this year, and my grandparents passed away before Christmas. Opening up has always been tough for me – but the past few months have made this worse.
There’s a lot of pressure to adopt a persona in public, no matter how old you are. I am already talking to doctors and councillors, but because I am so focused on recovering mentally, I feel like I have set no time for making friends.
Sitting here over these past couple days – even for a few minutes – has given me the incentive I needed to meet new people and recover.”
The Wirral Older People’s Parliament has operated the recycled bench project alongside Mosslands School since 2013.
There are now over two hundred benches lining the seafront. There are also plans to install a further three Happy to Chat benches in the future.
Carl Lecky, Wirral’s Town Crier, explained why the new Happy to Chat benches are a necessity.
He said: “Social isolation is a massive problem here on the Wirral, and it is definitely getting more extensive as the living age extends, and partners are separated by death.
We want people to feel welcome on their own doorstep. We don’t just want people and visitors to come down here and shop – we want to give people an opportunity to sit awhile, remember happy moments in their lives, and make new friends.
In fact, we were at the bench the other day to fix another plaque, and there was a family gathering drinking champagne, evidently celebrating a loved one.
Very moving, but it’s why it’s there – it is what we hoped for.”
The Wirral Older People’s Parliament provides information and support for older people living on the Wirral, and assists them with matters concerning health, social care and national issues, such as pensions.
You can check out the Wirral Older People’s Parliament on their WEBSITE! –
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