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Social Contact

Why is it important for everyone to have regular contact with people? 

Social contact is important for mental health. It helps us to cope with stress and major life changes. Knowing we are valued by others is an important psychological factor in helping us think more positively about our environment. There is also compelling evidence to suggest human contact is vital as a motivation to look after physical health.

Social connection is one of the five key ways to maintain positive emotional health. The Five Ways to Wellbeing are: Connect, Give, Take Notice, Keep Learning and Be Active. More information can be found on 5 Steps to mental wellbeing on the NHS website.

Here are some ideas to increase social contact: 

  • Socialise whenever you can. Even if it’s just a short conversation with the cashier at the supermarket, or the person next to you in the waiting room at the dentists
  • Invite friends or family over. You may feel they don’t want to visit you, especially younger relatives, but they will appreciate an invitation to spend some time with you. If you are not comfortable in someone coming to your home you could consider going for a walk, meeting in a park or cafe.
  • Simply having a chat with a relative or friend over the phone can be a good way to reduce the stress of being alone
  • Learn to use computers. If your friends and family live far away, services such as Skype, FaceTime, Viber, Facebook, and X (formally Twitter) can help you keep in touch. There are a number of community options for learning how to use computers, tablets and smart phones.
  • Get out and about. Please see the Getting Out & About section on Live Well York.
  • See what groups and activities there are in your local area on the Live Well York What's On directory.

We have gathered a range opportunities to help people in York maintain some social contact:

By Phone

York Neighbours support people over the age of 65 and are providing phone calls. An office volunteer will ring those who do not have family or friends nearby and would like a call, fortnightly or monthly, for a chat and to ask how they are.

Some people may request this only during times of illness, severe weather, or when family, friends or neighbours are going to be away. They can also do small tasks such as shopping, deliveries, and prescription and pick-ups.

Age UK York - offer a befriending service which provides one to one friendship and support to older people living alone in their own home, or in sheltered accommodation. Many older people have few social contacts and feel socially isolated and lonely. They try to alleviate this by matching the older person with a carefully selected volunteer who agrees to visit/telephone on a regular basis. 

In Person

Happy to Chat Bench - is an opportunity for people to stop for a natter, led by Age Friendly York with partners. Look out for someone sitting at a bench with a "happy to chat" sign, it's as simple as that, creating an extra opportunity to hear a friendly voice. Now that the spring has arrived the quantity of Happy to Chat benches will start to appear again. Some will be more spontaneous giving the opportunity for people passing by to have a chat, while others are more of a regular slot. Where there is a regular slot they are posted here:

There are now also some permanent Happy to Chat Benches, which are:

Bishopthorpe - corner of Church Lane and Sim Bank Lane

Copmonthorpe - village green

Dringhouses - Ged Bell Butchers

Acomb - Front Street

Move Mates – Move Mates is for absolutely anyone aged 18+ in the York area who needs emotional or motivational support to get out of the house and get walking. The only criteria is that people must be physically able to walk independently (or with the use of mobility aids). The volunteer Move Mates support people to get outside and go for a walk - for any purpose.

You can request a Move Mate for yourself, or on behalf of somebody else, by using this online form, or call 01904 373017. 

York Menfulness - encourages men of all ages to socialise, let off steam and improve wellbeing. They hold a number of group activities including; cycling, football and 'walks and talks'.

York 20s Social Group is a group for people in York in their twenties. They hold regular social events and welcome new members.


York Learning - provides a wide range of courses including Digital Computing and Getting Online. as well as arts, business, languages, dance, photography and many more. Leaning computer skills can help you connect by social media.


Many of the organisations on this page and within this directory are looking for volunteers. As well as helping them, volunteering is a useful way to increase your social contact. Find out more about volunteering.

National Social Contact Offers

There are a range of national organisations and services that provide support through welfare/wellbeing calls across the City. These include both general and more specialised services. Please note that this is not an exhaustive list.

The Silver Line is a UK wide helpline and friendship service for people aged fifty five and over. It operates as a confidential, free helpline and is open 24 hours a day, 7 days per week, and all year.

They also offer telephone friendship where they match volunteers with older people based on their interests. They have facilitated group calls and help to connect people with local services in their area.

Independent Age is for anyone over the age of sixty and is run by volunteers. People who wish to use the service can sign up for as long or short a time as they wish and will catch up with their volunteer at a regular time which suits both parties. If at any time the volunteer assigned isn’t working out as hoped, then Independent Age will find a replacement. This service is also free.

Reengage is a national charity committed to older people being heard, valued and engaged. They aim to bring older people together in social groups and use the power of volunteering to enable older people to make new friends and break out of the cycle of social isolation and loneliness. 

Age UK and their partner charity The Silver Line offer free telephone friendship services so you can enjoy chatting with someone over the phone, all from the comfort of your own home.

Whether you’d like to speak to someone every week, or just want to talk when the need strikes, we’re here to help

Action for Elders is a national charity that works with local people to make a difference to their quality of life, whatever their circumstances. 

They also have a number of social activity groups, including a Book Circle and Jigsaw Circle . There is also the chance to have peer to peer conversations through their Telephone Trees.

Ability Net volunteers provide free IT support to older people and people with disabilities of any age. Their volunteers can support people located anywhere in the UK. They are all disclosure-checked and can help with all sorts of IT (information technology) challenges, from setting up new equipment, fixing technical issues, showing you how to stay connected to family and use online services.

You can request their support by:


Pets & Wellbeing

A study carried out by the Mental Health Foundation and Cats Protection in 2011 found that 87 percent of those who owned a cat felt it had a positive impact on their wellbeing, while 76 percent said they could cope with everyday life better than before, because of the company their cat provided. Half of cat owners felt their cat’s presence and companionship was the most helpful factor in their wellbeing, while a third described having a cat as a calming and helpful activity.

Caring for a pet can also make you feel valuable and needed, as you are responsible for the care of another. Dogs especially are effective at this, as they require daily walks and a lot of attention.  Walking a dog often leads to conversations with other dog owners, and can help you to stay socially connected with the world.

Emotional Wellbeing

You can find some tips on the Live Well York emotional health page.

Also there's a range of emotional wellbeing and mental health support options in our Service and Products directory.


Last updated: 28/03/2024