Police are tackling elderly isolation with benches created to get strangers to chat

The Avon and Somerset Police Department set up "chat benches" to help tackle elderly isolation.

(CNN)One English police department is trying a new, creative way to tackle isolation and loneliness among elderly people. Starting with a simple bench.

The Avon and Somerset Police Department set up "chat benches" in two local parks in southwest England meant to spark conversation between residents. The benches feature a friendly sign that reads, "Sit here if you don't mind someone stopping to say hello!"
According to the police department, 17% of elderly adults in the United Kingdom speak with friends, family and neighbors less than once a week. The police say infrequent contact with friendly faces can leave them more vulnerable to crimes targeting older people, like doorstep crime, fraud and online or telephone scams.
"The sign simply helps to break down the invisible social barriers that exists between strangers who find themselves sharing a common place," said Police Community Support Officer Tracey Grobbeler in a statement.
    "Simply stopping to say 'hello' to someone at the Chat Bench could make a huge difference to the vulnerable people in our communities and help to make life a little better for them."