Woman helps people cut loneliness with 'Cafe Conversations'

Published: Apr. 5, 2019 at 2:52 PM EDT
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Even in a busy place like London, filled with nearly 9 million people, loneliness can take its toll.

''Sometimes being in a big city, you're even more isolated. You're surrounded by people, but you don't know who to talk to," said Louise Kaye, the creator of Cafe Conversations.

For Kaye, loneliness hit when her husband was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease.

She talked her local restaurant into opening its doors to a social idea.

"I just kept my fingers crossed that people would turn up," she said.

And they did.

Cafe Conversations is now a weekly meetup for strangers who have learned to connect over a cup of coffee or tea. Brought together by loneliness, the group talks about anything but. Questions keep the conversation flowing.

''You don't have to say anything. You talk as much as you'd like about whatever you like," said Diane Johnson, a conversation starter.

A new poll from Michigan researchers reveals loneliness shows up most in people 50-80 who also have health issues and unhealthy eating habits. Previous studies linked chronic loneliness to problems including memory loss and shorter lives.

Sausan Sulimn struggled to find a place in the British capital after fleeing from Syria.

Reporter: After you've been to a cafe conversation, how do you feel?

Sausan Sulimn: I feel so happy.

Reporter: So less lonely?

Sausan Sulimn: Yes, absolutely.

After seeing the friendships formed through these cafe conversations, Kaye hopes the concept will catch on around the world, making people feel less alone one cup at a time.

The campaign to fight loneliness is spreading across the UK. An English bus service launched a "Chatty Bus" route, where volunteers strike up conversations with lonely passengers.