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The 'talking' bench is there to invite chats among all ages, Source: Gothenburg Municipality

Gothenburg installs ‘talking’ benches

Gothenburg installs ‘talking’ benches

These are meant to encourage conversations and social interaction among residents

The City of Gothenburg municipal website informed that about twenty new benches have been recently placed all over the city. What’s unusual in this case is not the material or the design of the benches but their purpose. All of them are there to stimulate conversations and social interactions among the people taking the time to sit and relax.

The hope is that the ‘talking’ benches will contribute to more spontaneous meetings and conversations between Gothenburgers of all ages. However, the website indicates that the primary idea behind the project was to boost the social lives of seniors in particular. That is a part of the City’s strategy called ‘Age-friendly Gothenburg’. That is why the benches are to be found in locations especially favoured by elderly residents.

The benches are easy to recognize thanks to their yellow sides

There is nothing high-tech about the new street furnishings and what will make the benches ‘talking’ is the increasingly shared understanding among residents about their purpose. In a way, it is as if the city is inviting and encouraging people to interact more by giving them a clue.

With the talking bench, we want to counteract loneliness and increase the opportunity for interpersonal meetings in public environments regardless of age,” explained Märta Lycken, unit manager of Quality and development for the Elderly and the Care and Welfare Department.

The City is not only giving residents a space to socialize but also a cue card in case they are finding it hard to do so. Each bench has a plaque on its backrest explaining the purpose of the bench. The text on the plaque ends with: “Here are some suggestions to find a topic: What are you thinking about? What are you good at? Find three things you have in common”.

The benches can be spotted from afar given their yellow metal sides, which is also likely meant to create a sense of branding in the minds of the residents. If you sit here, be open to the possibility of making new friends.

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