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Chatty Benches for Spontaneous Conversations


Chatty Benches for Spontaneous Conversations

Summary

About twenty chatty benches have been placed in Gothenburg, Sweden. The idea is that the benches, which can serve as a place for conversation, will contribute to more spontaneous meetings between people, counteract social isolation and alleviate loneliness.

The chatty benches are part of the City of Gothenburg’s action plan for an Age-Friendly Gothenburg, a broad collaboration between administrations, companies and older people. The chatty benches are made of dark oak, and have a yellow frame with armrests for additional support. The Park and Nature Administration, together with other administrations and companies, has placed the chatty benches all over Gothenburg in places identified by older people in the community.

“By exhibiting chatty benches, we want to create meeting places and contribute to increased accessibility and security in our urban environment,” says Gunilla Åkerström, Unit Manager City Life, Park and Nature Administration.

Do you want to know more? Please contact
Sofia Tillman, Project Manager, City of Gothenburg

Website: https://stadsutveckling.goteborg.se/aldersvanliga-goteborg/

Key facts

Main target group: Both younger and older people (i.e. intergenerational)

Sector(s): Health, Information and communication, Urban development

Desired outcome for older people:
Contribute

Other issues the Age-friendly practice aims to address:
  • Ageism
  • Accessibility
  • Ageing in place
  • Healthy behaviours (e.g. physical activity)
  • Intergenerational activities
  • Inclusion
  • Participation

Contact details

Name: Emma Matsson

Email address: kerstin.karlsson@cityhall.goteborg.se


Age-friendly practice in detail (click to expand):

Engaging the wider community

Project lead: Local authorities

Others involved in the project:
  • Local authorities
  • Social or health care provider
  • Private sector

How collaboration worked: There are a lot of parties involved in this activity; Social or health care provider (HoF); Intergenerational meetings in Gothenburg in the Social Administration of Centrum, City of Gothenburg; The Park and nature administration (purchased and placed the benches), Municipal owned companies that own and manage commercial premises within the district squares in Gothenburg) and private companies that own and manage public grounds; democracy and civic services; civil society; National Collaboration for Mental Health; Natural History Museum, (arrange joint activities around the chatty benches). The project is managed by a Project Manager at the “Elderly and Health and Social Care administration” which facilitates the work, in close collaboration with different municipal administrations and companies (mentioned above) to purchase and place the benches. The funding was made avaiable through the government to help combat loneliness and social isolation among older people.

Older people’s involvement: Older people were involved in the age-friendly practice at multiple or all stages

Details on older people’s involvement: A group of older citizens, called “Future developers”, helps the City of Gothenburg to make the city more age-friendly. This group of older citizens includes individuals from diverse backgrounds, ages, knowledge, experiences and different areas of Gothenburg. Together they volunteer to contribute their time and commitment to make the City of Gothenburg a better place to age in.

Moving forward

Has the impact of this age-friendly practice been analysed: No

Do you plan to evaluate your age-friendly practice? Yes

Feedback:
Yes, a lot of feedback, both from target groups and others.

Expansion plans:
We will let the evaluation (planned in 2023-2024) guide us in if we should expand and how.

Looking back

Reflections:
The importance of being even more aware of the local context and how the placement of a bench brings people together to interact or not. There are details in the local context that are crucial for this and important knowledge that only the local citizens can provide. In the future, we would make additional efforts to involve older citizens in the actual placement of the benches and engage even more local for this purpose.

Challenges:
From an early stage in the project we had a communication plan which we realized was very important to have across all of our actions. The fact that communication is important for participation is a clear lesson from the work with the chatty benches. We have seen that communication always needs to be present in early stages and at a strategic level to help us identify where communication can make a difference in achieving goals in our missions and activities. It´s important to point out and remind individuals of the long-term gains in our work and not only look at the short term costs. Here is a link to a film about chatty benches: https://api.screen9.com/preview/3q2Tv3NoaNDCST6MWGg4P5D4Ef8V4FnRBvzsX1GibpKmdbaYXig2IGkVziH9kPxK

Age-Friendly World