It is the latest stage in the charity's #thelittlethings campaign – which aims to shine the a spotlight on loneliness and encourage people to reach out to those suffering from it.
“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,” says Plunkett.
“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.”
See also: Campaign combats winter loneliness
Plunkett Foundation says community co-operatives – pubs, shops and other organisations which have been saved and taken over by the local community – have lots to offer rural youngsters.
They include volunteering opportunities, one-stop shops for parents, networking and social interaction.
“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,” says Plunkett.
Many community co-operatives have seen young people volunteering as part of the much-valued Duke of Edinburgh Award, it adds.
Now Plunkett wants rural people to use its maps to locate their nearest co-operative pub and community shop – and pay them a visit.
Rural areas can be very lonely for teenagers who find it hard to see friends, it says – but volunteering in a community co-operative can be a good way of meeting new people.
It also gives youngsters the opportunity to do something that is genuinely valuable – and encourages 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.
Similarly, community shops can act as digital hubs – providing high-speed wireless broadband access to the local community, as in Bretforton, Worcestershire.
Plunkett says community co-operative shops also stock a wide range of essentials which are a lifeline to those with children who can’t get out and about easily.
These one-stop shops can help combat the loneliness and isolation experienced by many young parents – especially those without a job or access to a car.
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