• Unite the Beat

Reducing isolation as a by-product: 3 activities whose secondary outcome is arguably that.

Updated: Jan 11, 2019

I'm a sensitive soul, so my weekly visit to the pool involves coating myself in rather a lot of coconut oil to protect from the chlorine!! Armed with my protective layer and chuffed that the sun is yet again streaming in through large windows I lower myself into the pool.

It is time for Aqua Aerobics

It is time for Aqua Aerobics. Now if you think this is a slightly outdated activity for older women you are deeply mistaken. Though I reduced the average age quite significantly, I spent most of my first session embarrassed and alarmed at being outshone by beautiful older women, some twice my age, waving their arms in the air with determination and vigour.

Possibly more wonderful than their combined energy was that for many, the session seemed also to fulfil a need for social contact. This varied from some swimmers who quite literally nattered their way through the whole session, legs scissoring away whilst catching up on the weeks gossip. Others were more restrained, enjoying a bit of communion at the start and end.

Due to my passion for social contact and working out how to facilitate it, I found this encounter both heart warming and eye opening. At Unite The Beat our purpose is to use the arts to promote social contact and tackle isolation, a challenge that we are growing ever more skilled at addressing.

Activities that reduce isolation as a bi-product

I was therefore delighted and inspired to come into contact with what I am calling activities that 'reduce isolation as a bi-product,' stuff happening where the focus is not social contact but the activity fulfils for many the need for social contact.

So where can this bi-product be found? I have decided to share a few of my favourite examples that I have enjoyed personally to inspire you to consider if and where you are getting your fix of social contact as a bi-product.

Flexible working spaces

Being a social entrepreneur can be a notoriously lonely affair. Although you benefit from being able to go to the dentist whenever suits, or enjoy your mid morning Tai Chi session if it is what keeps you on the straight and narrow, it also requires profound determination and discipline.

I personally have found that this discipline can be hard to come by at 9am on a Monday morning when it is still dark outside and you are not really sure what you are doing with your life!!! Queue co-working spaces!!

There are a few super funky options in Brighton from Platform 9 and the flexible desk spaces at ONCA gallery to entrepreneurial hubs such as the one hosted by Natwest. We are lucky enough to have been picked to participate in their Accelerator Programme and have to say it has been a total godsend to have a community of colleagues facing many of the same challenges. Their next wave of applications are now open so if you are a budding entrepreneur who can find the journey a bit lonely, shared office space is just one of the many reasons to apply.

Start a group

I have recently been blessed to become an Auntie and although I think repetition is probably par for the course in learning, I did not want to subject my nephew to a round robin of the 3 children's songs I know.

I decided this would be a great opportunity to act on my lifelong desire to know more about my heritage and learn the folk songs of these wonderful Islands. To do so, I corned a couple of mates and put a call out on social media for nearby folk singers who fancied a monthly gathering at mine.

Almost a year later and the group has swelled in numbers and now includes some members often bringing tasty treats and cultural delicacies. I cannot really speak for the rest of the group but I have personally found that being connected to these wonderful people has added tremendously to my life and I relish the social connections it has brought me.

The group range in age form my best friends younger twin sister in her 20's, to members in their 80's, consequently offering the added benefit of intergenerational relationships to my life.

The local pub!

Our local pub, which has been taken over by new owners and now really has become OUR local pub. Max and Rosie have landed in our neighbourhood with a real determination to create a shared space that people can feel is their own, hosting a wide range of activities and with a desire to meet the needs of all, The Roundhill has proven a huge success.

I recently attended a carol event there with standing room only and am looking forward to musical jams and community nights.

On their opening night, many of the regulars who used to enjoy their previous pub in Lewes came to Brighton to celebrate their new adventure, a clear sign that these two really know how to bring people together and to forge community.

Maybe pubs have always been known as places of community that reduce isolation by default but I have to say in the heart of Brighton I have found this 'home' hard to come by. So whether you initially go there to sample their delicious food and wide array of drinks (both alcoholic and non), you are sure to leave with that warm sense of family and no doubt bump into some neighbours (both known and new).

Bring more social contact into our lives

So there you have it, whether you want to find a good local pub, start a group or join a more organised community, there are many ways we can actively choose to bring more social contact into our lives whilst pursuing the activities that make us happy.

With Brighton recently making headlines for the most searches for the word 'lonely' (BBC radio 4) we need to be on our toes when it comes to connecting with others. Enjoy the search for community, it is everywhere if you look for it.

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