There is plenty of research showing that loneliness doesn’t discriminate and you’re as likely to be suffering whether you’re 90 or 19. In rural areas, the problem is amplified by practical issues such as transport, lack of jobs and poor digital connectivity which particularly affect younger members of society.

Our #thelittlethings campaign aims to shed a spotlight on loneliness and encourage people to reach out to those suffering under the cloud of aching isolation. At Plunkett Foundation, our community co-operatives – pubs, shops and other organisations across the UK which have been saved and taken over by the community – not only provide a vital hub but have lots of practical help to offer young people:

Volunteering opportunities – Volunteering looks great on a young person’s CV, and is especially valuable in rural areas where opportunities for teens are often few and far between. Many community co-operatives have seen young people volunteering as part of the much-valued Duke of Edinburgh AwardBarkers of Huby, in Yorkshire, has taken on several D of E volunteers and also offers work experience plus paid jobs.

Finance skills – A retail environment is a great place to learn useful skills such as operating tills and EPOS systems.

Networking and social interaction – Rural areas can be very lonely for teenagers who face practical difficulties in seeing friends. Volunteering in a community co-operative is a great way of meeting the public and giving young people the opportunity to do something that is genuinely valuable. It’s also a great way of getting people of all ages and backgrounds to talk to each other. For example, Thurlton Community Shop in Norfolk has a café area which is regularly used by young people to do their homework.

Only connect – Broadband access can be a real problem in rural areas. Young people living in Bretforton, Worcestershire, particularly appreciate the provision of high-speed wireless broadband which has been established in the digital hub in the Community Shop.

A one-stop shop for parents – Life can be lonely for young parents, especially if they don’t have a job or access to a car. Many of our community co-operative shops stock a wide range of essentials which are a lifeline to those with children who can’t get out and about easily. 

So with opportunities to get involved for everyone, why not find your nearest community co-operative and see how you can help. Use our maps to locate your nearest community pub and community shop.