Project 03: Buddy Chat

Mitigating social isolation project

Project 3: Buddy Chat

A simple and fun card game to engage you in social interaction. A way to get to know each other better, while developing lasting and meaningful relationships.

Buddy Chat at Play
Buddy Chat at play

suiteLiving360 created Buddy Chat as a creative way to meet one of the great challenges of our time: Social Isolation and Loneliness.

Extensive research, including a conversation with Paul Born, co founder of the Tamarack Institute at Waterloo University, identifies ‘social isolation and loneliness’ emerging as one of two top social problems facing us as a society, with seniors and young people the most vulnerable. And that was pre COVID! Both the United Kingdom and Japan have appointed Ministers of Loneliness in their governments. Canada is not immune. It is thought that our health care costs will increase exponentially depending on the help we provide people suffering from social isolation and loneliness. suiteLiving360,with the financial support of New Horizons for Seniors for which we are always so grateful, recently devised an innovative process to engage seniors with the express purpose of mitigating social isolation and loneliness.

As Jake Ernst, asocial worker and clinical director of Straight Up Health says “It is about returning to our innate core needs. As humans, we are a social species, which means that we need each other in order to be well, and when we are cut off from relationships or when there’s something in between us, like a phone or some sort of technology, then that just starts to erode our sense of connection to other people,”

What is Buddy Chat?

Buddy Chat is a simple and fun card game consisting of 52 cards in a deck allowing you to engage seniors in social interaction and a new way to get to know each other better while developing lasting and meaningful relationships. A typical question is "Tell me your favorite memory growing up as a teenager"

Buddy Chat provides a warm, safe, and friendly encounter and can occur among a larger group of people or, equally successfully, between two people, a few around a table, or a larger audience in theatre style. There is a simple question on each card and the recipient gets to answer. “My favourite …. “ and there is a list of simple things like my favourite animal; favourite friend growing up, favourite subject at school, favourite singer … at a deeper level,  you have learned something personal about someone else and this can make for a more meaningful relationship. We have so few deep relationships today. Sadly, most are superficial. “Hi, how are you?”;“Fine thank you”, “Good, OK goodbye”. What ideas do you have to mitigate this disease of our time? How do you think we can prevent social isolation and loneliness among seniors?

Buddy Chat customization option.
You can always change up the questions to suit your audience. We did this with a church group as well as a group of Rotarians according to their specific interests. You can create a list of simple questions and print cards of your own. Just make sure that the questions are easy to answer. No trick or complicated questions please. This should be fun for all!
Buddy Chat cards
Sample deck of 52 cards.

The reason WHY Social Isolation and Loneliness is hitting epidemic proportions

 New restaurant concept: where diners dine alone.
Group on their phones: Not interacting as a family.

As opposed to...

In person / Intergenerational social gathering
Zoom meeting: Even when afar, people can still connect.

About Loneliness and Social Isolation

they are often thought to be interchangeable, but they are not the same thing. Loneliness is a subjective feeling. –I might be with a dozen people in a room but within myself … I feel, think, experience my aloneness. I feel disconnected.
Social isolation is an objective condition. – especially during COVID, when we were encouraged NOT to mingle, and we learned to stay away from others.

A major consequence of COVID was that we got used to not having regular social contact. Are there repercussions of this that we have not yet fully grasped or felt? Where social isolation and loneliness merge is when we consider that loneliness is very much a modern phenomenon, as it is largely a function of how we live today. Socially, we are scattered with members of families often living on different continents. Before 1800, the word loneliness was not even in regular use in the English language. Families were generally much larger and extended families larger still. Most people lived in villages or on farms where they knew almost everyone around them. There was regular and deep interaction across all age groups.

Further insight into the epidemic of loneliness and social isolation: After spending nearly two years indoors due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s no surprise that millions of Canadians came out the other side feeling lonely, isolated and anxious.

Supporting Buddy Chat material

Buddy Chat at play poster

Two page brochure

Mini posters

Mood Indicator

Relevant links:

1. Toronto 

2. A survey by Statistics Canada in mid-2021 found that more than 40percent of Canadians feel lonely some or all of the time, with the problem worst, as one might imagine, among single people and those who live alone. Concern over social isolation and the related mental health challenges resulting from quarantine were widespread during the pandemic. Canadians reported heightened anxiety and feelings of loneliness as the ordeal went on and psychiatrists regularly warned of its dire consequences. 

3. From the WHO (World Health Organization):
Social isolation and loneliness are increasingly being recognized as a priority public health problem and policy issue for older people. During the course of the UN Decade of Healthy Ageing (2021-2030), the Demographic Change and Healthy Ageing Unit will be addressing social isolation and loneliness as one of the themes that cuts across the four main action areas of the Decade. 

4. View a collection of the most relevant statistics and data on loneliness and isolation by country, demographic, and life circumstances. 

5. Consider one of the most famous longitudinal studies on happiness:
TED talk – Harvard Study

Catering to the 55+ lifestyle

“What a great idea. Living in community with like-minded women!”