Watch the Olympics with your NeighboursWith only days to go until the start of the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, the British Red Cross and the Co-op are calling people to get together with neighbours and watch the Games – as a way to help combat loneliness and isolation.

The charity, who is working in partnership with the Co-op to tackle the issue of loneliness and social isolation in the UK, hope that communities will recall the positive feelings created by the 2012 Olympics and use this year’s Games as a catalyst to talk with people who may be feeling alone, to watch major events together.

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Colin Brown, British Red Cross Director for Independent Living & Crisis Response, said: “It’s simple – all we’re asking people to do is to strike up a conversation with their neighbour. It’s proven that people don’t do this anymore, so the Olympic and Paralympic Games is the perfect opportunity to start. An event like this gives the community a shared sense of passion – a common ground so you can start a chat.”

Research by the Co-op indicates that millions of people find it difficult to admit they feel lonely, and 43 percent say they have not spoken a word to their neighbours in the last week. Some neighbours have never even said hello to one another.

Despite nearly half of those surveyed knowing a neighbour who lives alone, reasons not to start a conversation including fear of causing offence (57 percent) and feeling uncomfortable because they see people as ‘preferring to keep to themselves’.

In October 2015, the British Red Cross and Co-op launched a two year partnership to highlight and tackle loneliness and social isolation in communities across the UK. Loneliness is a hidden but very real crisis, and being lonely is reported as being twice as deadly as being obese.

British Red Cross and Co-op are working together to develop a detailed study which will look at the nature and impacts of loneliness across the UK. The full results of this research – produced alongside health and social care experts and people who have experienced loneliness in their lives – will be published later in 2016. It will examine in particular the impacts of loneliness and social isolation on those at risk, and the forms of care and support that can be provided to best help thousands of lonely people reconnect with their communities.

“You can invite a neighbour around for a cup of tea to watch the Opening Ceremonies, athletics or wheelchair basketball. Who wouldn’t want to share that moment of joy when the likes of Greg Rutherford or Ellie Simmonds clinch victory for Great Britain? You can’t do that in the same way if you’re alone. Sharing this experience with your neighbour could be making a huge difference to someone’s life,” added Colin Brown.

Richard Pennycook, Chief Executive of the Co-op, said: “Loneliness and social isolation is one of our biggest social issues, but it gets little public attention. From young people struggling to find their identity, to single parents bringing up kids, to carers coping with dementia, to the elderly left on their own, it does not discriminate – isolation is a problem we can all do something about.”

For more information on the Co-op British Red Cross campaign to tackle loneliness and social isolation in the UK, please visit www.redcross.org.uk/Get-involved/Corporate-support/Corporate-partners/Co-op

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