With around 1.2 million chronically lonely older people in the UK and nine million lonely people, it’s clear we are a nation suffering from the problem of loneliness.
It's a social issue that can have a detrimental effect on wellbeing, health, and happiness, and has even been found to increase the chance of mortality by 26 per cent.
The late MP Jo Cox, who established the Loneliness Commission, said: ‘Young or old, loneliness does not discriminate.' Many people in society are living alone without a local support network.
The number of middle-aged people living alone in the UK has grown by around 50 per cent in the last 20 years, almost 2.5 million 45-64 year olds were living alone in 2017 according to the Office for National Statistics, and over half of all people aged 75 and over live alone.
Village Makers builds developments that include sustainable and energy efficient properties and focus on ‘mindful placemaking’.
Bob Tomlinson of Village Makers said: ‘We shouldn’t just be building houses, we should be creating communities that encourage interaction. Research shows that small, simple and inexpensive interventions to improve the physical environment of neighbourhoods and the way people interact can make huge differences and build resilience to loneliness.
‘Communal, people-centric space is what makes the difference, space that encourages human connection, communication, neighbourliness, conviviality and a feeling of belonging.'
Village Makers’ 12-year-old development, The Wintles in Shropshire, is an example of how architecture and design benefit the local community. There are 40 houses linked by winding paths, and arranged in clusters around shared green space, with car ports located behind the houses, woodland, allotments and larger spaces for get-togethers and events.
Interaction between neighbours is encouraged through this layout, along with property features, including covered open porches, which offer a space for neighbours to informally communicate with each other. This aspect was based on Christopher Alexander’s A Pattern Language (£34.47, Amazon) which cites the open porch as one of the vital design ‘patterns’.
Tomlinson’s current project is Oakley Orchards in Essex, a joint venture between Pete Thompson, a local landowner and farmer, and Village Makers. The project will see the development of 51 houses on a nine-acre site amidst fruit orchards in the village of Great Oakley. Buyers will get the choice of plot and house type, as well as additional features such as sunspace, balcony or bay window, internal layout, and interior specification.
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