How to stay connected and build your community, both digitally and physically

Nurturing relationships and staying connected is vital to maintaining a healthy and happy life.

While not every activity or club is accessible for everyone, there are lots of different ways to meet like-minded people, make connections and build wonderful new relationships.

Schedule friendly visits and calls

The more time you spend at home, the more you can feel isolated, so it’s important to schedule social activities to keep you connected.

There are many organisations committed to helping people meet new contacts and stay connected. Age UK offers a Friendship Service, for example, to help combat loneliness in later life with both home visits and telephone conversations.

As well as offering a helping hand and supporting people in their daily tasks, Community Companions at the Royal Voluntary Service also provide good company. They can visit you in person, call you on the phone, or take you to a local class to socialise with others in your community.

Royal British Legion Scotland offers Support Visits to veterans who would otherwise be socially isolated. Legion volunteers pop round for a cuppa and a chat, highlighting new activities in your local community.

Try out a local class

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Fancy venturing out to meet new people and learn something new?

Most local councils offer a variety of Adult Learning classes, with subjects such as cooking, sewing and IT on offer. Council classes suit a variety of budgets – some are even free! – and they often give further discounts if you claim certain benefits. Find your local council’s website on GOV.UK to see what’s available, but do check accessibility before going along.

Many charities also offer courses – Age UK, for example, runs a variety of classes for older people – so it’s worth doing a web search on a charity you’re interested in. You can also look on Find Courses to discover new classes in your area, or you can browse courses for people with disabilities and learning difficulties here.

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…Or join an online class

Taking an online class or course is a great alternative to physically attending one, and helps you to connect with new people.

Check out websites such as FutureLearn, OpenLearn and Udemy to browse their selection of both free and paid online courses.


Being indoors doesn’t mean you have to miss out on sightseeing.

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Feel good in the forest

Getting out and about in nature is brilliant for your mental health – just take a read of Forestry England’s page, detailing the benefits of forests for wellbeing!

Forest walks and nature treks are also great ways to socialise. Feel Good in the Forest is Forestry England’s new social prescribing project, aimed at improving the physical and mental health of those in most need. The project is based at either Chopwell Wood, Gateshead or Thames Chase Forest Centre, Upminster, so it’s worth checking out if you’re local to either site.

You can also head to the Time Outdoors or Ramblers websites to find other sociable walking groups in your area.

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Take a (virtual) tour

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Being indoors doesn’t mean you have to miss out on sightseeing. While it might not feel like a ‘social’ experience, immersing yourself in a virtual tour can make you feel less alone if you’re spending more time at home.

Historic Environment Scotland (HES) is just one organisation that provides virtual tours of some of Scotland’s awe-inspiring landmarks. Check out their British Sign Language tour of Edinburgh Castle, explore the story of the Holyrood Coffins, or browse other BSL virtual tours on their website.

If you’re local to Scotland and you fancy taking a tour in-person, Euan’s Guide worked with HES to produce their Castles and Battlefields Accessibility Guide, which details the accessible features of a number of sites including Stirling Castle, Fort George, Elgin Cathedral and Clava Cairns. Maybe you’ll meet some other history buffs while you’re there!

Work out at an inclusive gym

Exercise is great for both your physical and mental health, but it’s also a brilliant opportunity to meet and connect with other fitness enthusiasts.

Sadly, not all gyms are accessible to those with additional needs. However, since 2017, Activity Alliance and Quest, the sports industry’s leading quality scheme, have been working together to enable more people in the disabled community to get active. Discover your local inclusive gym by searching on Activity Alliance’s website.

Being part of an online community is a great way to connect with people who you share a common interest or value with.

Try out an accessible sports club

Joining a sports club is a sociable way to keep fit, but not all clubs are accessible to those with additional needs. To counteract this problem, ParalympicsGB and Toyota have developed Parasport – a hub dedicated to making movement better for everyone.

Parasport showcases inclusive local opportunities to get you moving and meeting new people, whether that’s through wheelchair rugby, mixed ability Pilates, or even via one of their accessible home workouts.

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Visit a virtual village hall

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Busy, loud village halls might not be suitable for everyone, but luckily the Royal Voluntary Service has come up with a solution – a Virtual Village Hall.

The Virtual Village Hall is an online activity hub and community, designed to help people stay physically and mentally active, connected and having fun. You’ll find over 700 sessions available to take part in, led by expert tutors and requiring very little space or equipment.

Sessions include creative arts and crafts, music and singing, cooking and baking, dance and exercise, and technology skills. Plus, if you miss the live sessions, you can catch up on demand at a time that suits you – perfect!

Join an online community

Being part of an online community is a great way to connect with people who you share a common interest or value with.

To find your online tribe, think about things you enjoy – whether that’s film, music or following a certain sports team or activity – and then search out a relevant Facebook group, Discord server, Slack channel or even a sub-Reddit or other online platform to join. These online spaces give you the opportunity to chat with others about your common interests but also help you to meet new people. Your new best friend could be just a click away!

Group of elderly people sitting around a table, doing a jigsaw puzzle together and smiling

Get involved with a charity or organisation

Find a sense of belonging by involving yourself with a cause close to your heart. There are thousands of charities that are always looking for new volunteers, whether that’s by helping out in a charity shop, campaigning for the cause, or getting involved in fundraising events.

Some charities even offer activities to involve you at home. For example, charity Sense has a home Sign School – a £10 monthly subscription that rewards you with home-based British Sign Language lessons. While it’s not the most sociable of activities, learning a new language will help you to meet and connect with more people in the long run, which is certainly a positive thing. 

Likewise, you can also look to join an organisation that appeals to you. Townswomen’s Guild is one of the largest women’s organisations in the UK, bringing together 12,000 members from across the UK. Members usually meet at least once a month to enjoy each other’s company, develop friendships, try new things, and to campaign for social issues. You can find your local Guild here, or check out Memberwise’s list of the UK’s largest membership bodies for more inspiration.

Further reading

Additional support at home

Feeling safe and supported is vital to staying independent at home. The Priority Services Register (PSR) is a free service, designed to support those who need a little extra help in the event of interruptions to their gas, water or electricity supply.

If you or someone you know has communication, access or safety needs, signing up to the PSR will help you to access the best possible services at all times and to feel safe and independent at home.

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