Meeting people is for many an important element of their leisure time. Dutch people spend around 8 hours per week on social contacts and 2 hours on going out. Going out for dinner scores high on the list of popular activities.

A properly organised living environment can make it easier to meet people, for example via social facilities (community centres, welfare organisations), food and drink outlets and attractive green and blue areas. The more active and organised meeting opportunities, such as events, are dealt with under experience and play.

Loneliness

Social contacts and a feeling of belonging are important for our health. The number of people who feel lonely will probably increase due to the ageing population. Loneliness can lead to psychological disorders, dementia and coronary diseases. Loneliness can be reduced by having good social contacts.

A greater 'feeling of togetherness' in green neighbourhoods

Social cohesion plays an important role in explaining the relationship between green spaces and health. People in a green residential environment appear to have no more contact with their neighbours than people in a less green environment. However, they do feel less lonely and receive more social support. Vegetable gardens can help increase social contacts in the neighbourhood.

More social contacts through local initiatives

More and more local care providers are joining forces to get people exercising. For example, a GP practice and a welfare organisation in Asten have set up a walking group for patients with cardiovascular diseases and diabetes. They go on a walk at a fixed time every week, starting from the community centre opposite the practice. At the end they drink a cup of coffee or tea together. Weekly group walks are now taking place all over the country, for people suffering from diabetes, for instance.

Role of the municipality

A lot of places to meet, such as restaurants and caf├ęs, are run by entrepreneurs. Despite this the municipality still has a role to play. The use of public space is subject to a number of laws and rules. Any bar or restaurant which has outdoor seating needs a permit, for example.

Many municipalities are focusing on reducing loneliness. After all, they have the task of encouraging citizens to participate in society. Usually this is not addressed in recreational policy, but in healthy environmental planning. Social organisations are collaborating more and more to tackle loneliness, for example in the Inclusion Coalition. They provide places to meet and social activities for lonely people.

Neighbourhood profiles

Various cities, such as Utrecht, want to know how different neighbourhoods score in terms of social cohesion. They use so-called neighbourhood profiles, for instance, to take account of local characteristics. Around 60 municipalities present their social facilities and activities on The social map. Movisie supports policymakers in tackling social issues.

Participation

Residents are involved more and more in healthy environmental planning, under the banner of participation. This is leading to the creation of residential areas that meet the demands of the local population. People can, for example, share ideas about green spaces in the neighbourhood, or take responsibility for managing them. This can increase the basis of support and the social cohesion in the neighbourhood.

Sharing

Sharing services and goods is a noticeable trend. 'Share to enrich' is the motto: sharing is good for social contacts, your wallet and the environment. You can use handy apps to share information with neighbours, for example in order to borrow or lend goods or to make contact with people to avoid eating alone.

Voluntary work

You can help reduce loneliness via a voluntary organisation. For example, volunteers help people to find new contacts or to build on existing social relationships.