When Hey Neighbour Collective launched in July 2019, it felt like the issue of loneliness and social isolation was a backburner issue that didn’t seem urgent to many outside of the health sphere. Not anymore.
Now whether we’re looking at trends in ageing, cascading crises (climate, housing, public health) or even growing political discord, more and more of us understand the supportive role of social connections; not just the ones we choose with people who share our interests but also with neighbours who in a crisis might be our most immediate source of aid.
Read on for a small sample of what we’re following lately surrounding these issues. If you have inspiring material to share, we’d love to hear about it.
With The Lonely Century, British writer Noreena Hertz dives into our global epidemic of isolation – and what can be done about it
This Globe and Mail interview with economist, professor and best-selling author Noreena Hertz is a great introduction to the book’s major themes. If the interview piques your interest, pick up the book; it’s excellent. Written during COVID, it takes a broad and equity-focused historical view of global trends towards increased loneliness. With a clear eye on the structural drivers of these trends – social, technological, economic, spatial and political – Hertz paints a worrisome picture of our time. But she also proposes many solutions, including ones related to housing and urban design that echo some of Hey Neighbours’ own recommendations. And solutions are what we’re all here for, right?!
The Globe and Mail
Socially Connected Communities: Solutions for Social Isolation
In 2020, Healthy Places By Design partnered with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to co-manage the Social Isolation Learning Network, a diverse group of participants sharing their efforts to reduce social isolation. Out of this process came the report Socially Connected Communities: Solutions for Social Isolation. It lays out five sets of recommendations for creating socially connected communities, starting with public spaces, transportation, and housing. Though US-focused, many of the recommendations could be relevant for other countries as well. Read the full report by clicking the button below, or check out this related challenge to US policymakers co-authored by the Executive Directors of Healthy Places by Design and the Foundation for Social Connection.
Healthy Places By Design
Seniors Empowering Seniors offers DIY tools for developing connected and inclusive multi-unit housing communities
Developed by the ‘NORC Ambassador’ project of OpenLab (a design and innovation hub within University Health Network), this beautifully laid out, resource-rich site offers DIY tools and an inspiring idea bank for anyone interested in transforming high-rise apartment buildings with a significant proportion of senior residents into inclusive and connected communities where systems of mutual support help with ageing in place and efficiencies in service delivery.
Innovative intergenerational home-sharing program expands to Metro Vancouver in partnership with SFU
NICE – the National Initiative for the Care of the Elderly – launched an experimental pilot in 2018 in Toronto, pairing up seniors with extra room in their homes (houses or apartments/condos) with students looking for affordable housing. Fast forward to today, and the promising pilot is now Canada HomeShare, currently active in five communities. Major scaling is planned: they aim to grow from 100 matched-up people to 600 in 2022.
In Metro Vancouver, SFU’s Faculty of Communication, Art and Technology (FCAT) is a key partner and the program is open to all domestic SFU students. In exchange for affordable rent ($400-$600/m), students commit to seven hours per week of assistance that can help their new roommates age in place: tidying, walking a pet, sharing cooking etc. Both parties benefit from intergenerational companionship.
Have room in your home? Studying at SFU and intrigued? Learn about the experience so far of Siobhan and Michael, SFU’s first home share match at the link below. And learn about the broader program by clicking the button below.
Simon Fraser University
Free February 2 webinar: resident wellbeing in temporary modular supportive housing
Happy City – one of Hey Neighbour Collective’s key partners – spent two years collaborating with Reos Partners on research about the current state of temporary modular housing (TMH) in Vancouver, with funding support from CMHC.
Engaging a broad range of stakeholders involved in ‘TMH’ – builders and architects, policymakers and planners, developers and municipalities, and residents and operators — they sought to understand residents’ wellbeing needs and identify the existing barriers to fostering wellbeing in TMH.
“As part of the project, we worked with Lu’ma Native Housing Society to test and implement six programming actions in their New Beginnings building in Vancouver. The activities aimed to foster wellbeing by helping participants build relationships with one another, exercise their creative brains, and connect with their cultures. The final report [PDF] offers a starting point for municipalities, decision-makers, and design teams across the country to centre wellbeing in all types of supportive housing projects.”
Want to hear more about their learnings and recommendations? Register for the free webinar at the link below.
In development: Hangeh tests an online interface for meaningful and authentic interactions within multi-unit residential communities
Founded by three childhood friends, Vancouver-based property technology company Hangeh aims to make it easier for residents in urban multi-unit housing to have meaningful interactions with their neighbours and experience the best of their local community.
Their ‘human-centred approach’ includes a digital interface and a dedicated network of community ambassadors to catalyze resident engagement, within buildings as well as the local community.
We were flattered to hear from founders Saif, Zeeshan and Hassaan that Hey Neighbour Collective was one of their inspirations and we wish them all the best with their intriguing venture. Their platform is currently being trialled in high-rise buildings and will soon be available for master-planned communities. Learn more about them or request a demo.