Source: Whangarei District Council
Updated: 10/12/2019 4:11 p.m.
Friendships will be budding along with the roses in Cafler Parks this summer, as people enjoy a new place to sit a spell, and chat.
Placed at an angle that invites eye-contact and conversation without being confronting, two Friendship Benches were unveiled at a blessing held in the gardens on Saturday 30 November.
The Friendship Bench, a village concept, is simple yet effective. People can sit and share the space with someone who is open to have a chat, listen, share stories and make friends. All ages, cultures and abilities can participate.
The Northland Indian Association Inc (NIAI) was proud to donate the Friendship Benches to the community in partnership with Whangarei District Council. Board members of the NIAI were keen to support Whangarei District Council’s Positive Ageing Advisory Group (PAAG) as social isolation can also be common in ethnic groups who are settling in.
“These are the first of two NIAI Friendship Benches and we hope to see others in Northland,” says Ralph Correa, Northland Indian Association, Board Chair.
The idea of these benches is to combat social isolation within and between communities, an issue raised by senior members of the NIAI and PAAG earlier in this year.
The concept was tested at the Whangarei Central Library inside on the International Day of Older Adults and was well received. The bench was also presented at the “Diwali Festival of Lights” held on 12 October 2019 at Forum North where 500 community members were in attendance.
“Friendship Benches are strategically placed in an open and well-travelled by area of the park so that people can easily identify when someone is seeking conversation, but also to ensure people are safe,” says Spencer Jellyman, Technical Officer, Parks Department, Whangarei District Council.
“People are busy and have less time to stop to have a chat. There is a growing epidemic of social isolation, especially after the ‘stranger danger’ days,” said Mr Correa.
“It may sound like a strong term, but social isolation is a potential danger for many of us. It’s a phrase we may associate with older people when they become less active and able to engage in their community, but social isolation can easily occur at any age.
“The Friendship Bench is a safe mechanism with the ability to really boost community connections across our District.”