Most of us have been thinking about how we socialise.
Most of us have missed social contact, have felt alarmed or irritated about safety restrictions on socialising.
All of us are affected.
This week, for me, the saddest aspect of the effects of the Coronavirus is a report on the high number of people who started shielding in March 2020 and now say they may never leave the house again.
There are many reasons for this – physical and mental – all of which are easy to understand. People got used to staying at home, they were fearful of what might happen if they left home, they are now less stable on their feet, are not sure how they feel about meeting people or bumping into strangers.
Running a community centre, this sad fact strikes me as one of the most important right now: if we seek to be welcoming to all, as we very much do, how can we help people to re-connect with their social lives or to build new ones?
We have been thinking about this. One thing that emerges as key is the idea of a ‘safe space’. We all need this. We need to feel safe to share ideas and opinions, to get to know people better, to let them get to know us better. This is not new – it has been very important for things like social media and on-line dating for some time – but it does seem to be more important for all of us now. And safe spaces have to be physically safe for health reasons. How close do you want to sit to someone you don’t know, or do know, on the bus? At church? In a meeting?
We seem to be juggling with so many is it safe? questions that perhaps going out and making contact and new contacts, new friends has become a much more difficult job.
We do want people to want to come in to the New Horizon Centre. It’s not just whether or not the spaces we offer are safe from a health point of view – and we make every effort to ensure that they are – it is also about wanting to come in. What do you want to come in for?
We think, and hope, that it is to see old friends and make new ones. We also think it should be not only safe but also fun. We should help people lead more independent lives, especially those have practically become institutionalised in their own homes. Or in some cases, in other people’s homes, because they have been looking after them or being cared for.
We have some thoughts and ideas and we would like yours too. Our suggestions are:
- easy and fun exercise to help people feel confident physically – dance, seated exercise, gentle exercise. We think music is important here too.
- cafe-type settings where you can chat but you can also not chat.
- learning about new things, possibly new skills, in a safe space where you will not be judged.
- sharing ideas in a safe space where you won’t be laughed at or dismissed.
- eating together and chatting over food, or not.
These are just a few of our thoughts and we really want to hear yours.