Open any newspaper and you are likely to read something about the UK’s health and wellbeing crises. Regardless of cause, it is something that touches all of us, whether it is a friend who feels a little lonely after moving to a new city, a relative who is challenged by their mental health or a colleague struggling to keep on top of their fitness. We all know there is no panacea or silver bullet, but at GT3 Architects, we believe that community cohesion and activity is a key contributor to tackling these very personal and social challenges.
Well-researched, independent and respected sources suggest that adults who participate in daily physical activity lower their risk of depression and dementia by 20-30%, the elderly reduce their risk of falls, morbidity, mortality and loss of independence by 30%, and a sense of purpose and shared community begin to reduce loneliness and support social cohesion. Recent TV programmes such as ‘The Restaurant That Makes Mistakes’ and ‘Old People’s Home for 4 Year Olds’ have highlighted how sharing a common purpose and having an opportunity to learn from each other deliver huge well-being benefits.
What if the sports and leisure facilities of the future evolved to foster community spirit through activity? We believe that it can be achieved through collaboration.
We are already seeing different sources report the same conclusions with regards to tackling a whole host of health and wellbeing issues. Forums such as Active Uprising bring together all types of stakeholders to talk about policy and to reward organisations that are leading the way in promoting well-rounded, inclusive facilities for all that help more people to be active. It is encouraging to see knowledge being shared at the highest levels.
We also believe in the power of collaboration at a business level. Just recently we learnt that a GT3 Architects designed leisure centre in Dover is working together with a local mental health support group to tackle the rise in male suicides in the area through the creation of a dedicated activity programme. As professionals in the built environment, we need to support clients to develop community-led places and spaces that include those who are often hard to reach and for whom there are perceived barriers. We need to warmly welcome and engage those who enjoy gardening, gaming, plogging (picking up litter whilst jogging) or going for a walk with friends as a means of exercise. There is no surprise that companies like SoulCycle are as popular as they are, regardless of politics, because they focus on building a supportive community and activity is a means through which to achieve it.
Most importantly, we need to engage real people to understand what matters to them and then we need to deliver it. ITV recently featured a gentleman new to Birtley Swimming Centre who had previously avoided going because of how he felt about his appearance. It is only by asking people that we will understand how to help them to be more active and engaged in the community.
Through collaboration amongst policymakers, joining the dots between different parts of the community and actively engaging people, we believe we can collectively begin to tackle some of the UK’s most serious yet avoidable social issues.