You can interact every day with hundreds of Facebook, Instagram or Twitter friends and yet still be alone.
Very alone, in fact, and according to researchers, to the point of dying before your time.
US researcher Juliannne Holt- Lunstad says social isolation poses a high risk for early mortality. She says it is as bad as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
A BBC survey of 55,000 people found 40 per cent between the ages of 16 and 24 felt lonely. A study by The Economist, with California’s Kaiser Family Foundation, found more than one in five US adults, and just less than one in four British adults, felt lonely and isolated.
At Villawood, we’re acutely aware of people’s need for human contact.
We have many people coming to our greenfield communities maybe from another town or interstate, many from overseas. Many don’t know a soul.
They need to go to the greenfields to afford to buy but then they face the challenge of join making new friends.
It can be daunting.
At Villawood, we provide club facilities with gyms, pools, tennis and basketball courts, cafes, parent rooms and function spaces. We host events, encourage self-starter clubs like cycling, walking and social groups, with our intranet.
We work very hard to get people connected and we know our efforts are working, and helping build sustainable communities. We’ve heard all sorts of positive stories from people moving into our communities.
We provide special assistance to care workers so they can afford to buy a home and help consolidate our communities. Social responsibility is not a buzzword for us; it’s something we factor into our budgets, our designs and our activities.
We’ve built extensive parks and tracks and sport grounds to encourage kids to get outside and play and interact with each other.
What we need is for more developers, more town planners and more local councils to get on board and include better socially-responsible elements in their new communities.
They need to do a lot more or we will face more of the already serious problems being identified by researchers.
Loneliness, physical inactivity, mental health – these are serious problems facing our society and they require a concerted multi-pronged approach in how we build our homes and our communities.