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Have we forgotten how to make friends?

11 May 2018
Belfast Deputy Lord Mayor Sonia Copeland has helped the Campaign to End Loneliness to launch the ‘Be More Us’ movement, in response to research which shows that almost half (46%) of adults in Northern Ireland feel it’s been a long time since they made a new friend or connection.

Over half of people in Northern Ireland say that their busy daily lives stop them from connecting with people as much as they would like.

79% of people surveyed said that small moments of connection, such as making small talk on the bus or smiling at people, are a valuable way of tackling loneliness. Three quarters of adults in Northern Ireland agree that it’s harder for older people to overcome loneliness – and 74% agree that society needs to do more to help older people.

In response to the findings, the Campaign has launched ‘Be More Us’, a movement to inspire connection and bring people together. The Campaign to End Loneliness is funded by the Big Lottery Fund.

Belfast Deputy Lord Mayor Sonia Copeland, said: “I very much welcome the ‘Be More Us’ message that encourages all of us to reach out and make connections, no matter how trivial they may appear. A wave across the road to a neighbour or a cheery hello with a passer-by on the street can make a difference to someone of any age who is lonely and might not otherwise have daily contact with another person.

“We mustn’t forget that people of any age can be lonely and that loneliness can be a factor in mental health issues.

“On a wider note, volunteering in your community can be an effective way of meeting new people and making friends for everyone. Ensuring that older people’s needs and views are represented at Local Government, as the Greater Belfast Seniors Forum does, may certainly contribute to lessening loneliness and isolation in older age.”

Doris, a Seniors Forum representative, said: “I think the idea behind the ‘Be More Us’ movement, to encourage older people in particular to be more proactive in greeting and connecting with others, is so beneficial for good mental health. Since my husband passed away I have kept active and connected with others to keep myself healthy and engaged in life and would urge others to do the same.”

Fiona Murphy, Campaign to End Loneliness Campaign Manager for Northern Ireland, said:
“Loneliness and isolation are major problems in Northern Ireland, especially for older people. But our research shows that the majority of people believe that small moments of connection, that anyone can get involved with, are a valuable way of tackling loneliness.

“That’s why Be More Us will elevate small moments of connection, like saying hello to someone in your local shop or smiling at someone on the bus. Small moments count, and they should be celebrated. Even in our busy lives, we can all do something. The majority of people in Northern Ireland agree that society needs to do more to address the loneliness of older people – so we urge everyone to get involved with Be More Us.”
Be More Us Deputy Lord Mayor