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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2019 Week 11 Hansard (Thursday, 26 September 2019) . . Page.. 3979 ..

an older person, or possibly disabled, living in a larger house, with a younger person, often a student. It is a win-win situation. The older person has company, possibly a little income and someone to help around the house, and the younger person has an affordable place to live. The two parties may well end up as friends.

I have seen documentaries and read about how the Netherlands have been accommodating students for free in aged-care homes in exchange for them spending 30 hours a month of their time acting as neighbours. Also in the Netherlands I have read about “chat aisles” in supermarkets where one check-out is dedicated to those who have a bit more time and want a chat as they purchase their groceries. These same supermarkets have coffee corners where you can expect to have a conversation with someone else. Of course, the Netherlands have been leading the way in bringing children into nursing homes.

Locally, I have heard about a Mr Erwin, who regularly sits on a bench at the Kaleen shops. Anyone who sits next to him can expect a conversation. I understand he is making a real difference in people’s lives simply by sitting on a bench and having a chat. Locally, the Red Cross has Telecross, which is a service which links people with an older person who they call every day in the morning for a chat and a check-in. Initiatives such as these do not have to cost a lot of money. They take some time and they can have a meaningful, positive impact.

Co-housing is another way to address loneliness. Co-housing communities are intentional communities with homes clustered around shared space. People who live there can still live their own separate private lives in individual dwellings, but they also have the opportunity to mingle and share. These are developed in a way to encourage this. They can also be more affordable because some facilities can be shared. For example, not everyone has to have a spare room. You can have some shared spare rooms, some shared laundry space or shared garden space. I am very pleased that three of the demonstration housing projects that the ACT government is looking at feature co-housing. I really do look forward to these coming to fruition.

As individuals, there are things that we can all do. We can get to know our neighbours better, share cuppas and build connections. Things like transition streets are good ways for neighbours and friends to come together and support each other to reduce their ecological footprint, save money and be more connected. Planting community gardens and food gardens is a good way of promoting and enabling social inclusion.

Men’s sheds are another great example, where men, who traditionally have not been very good at social connection and may well become isolated, can develop friendship circles and supportive networks that enable them to belong. These are important because rates of loneliness are often higher for men than for women.

Urban planners have a really significant role to play in this regard. Often apartments are built in such a way that you will never, ever see your neighbour. You will walk out of your front door and you will go down in the lift to the basement car park. We need to stop building isolated places like that.

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