Learning social inclusion from Aarhus

07 April 2022 - Published by Walter Wehus
Loneliness is on the rise in Aarhus. But so are the ideas and programmes to alleviate it. In March, From Isolation to Inclusion met in the Danish city for inspiration and co-creation.

Loneliness is the uncomfortable feeling that the social relations we have in our lives aren’t as many or as deep as we could wish for. It isn’t necessarily the same as social isolation: We can feel lonely without being alone, and we can be alone without feeling lonely.

The municipality of Aarhus in Denmark has seen a rise in people reporting severe loneliness in recent years. In 2017 the number was 8 per cent. In 2021 this had risen to 15 per cent.

“The corona lockdown plays a part in this rise. For a lot of people, the isolation has been a big issue. But this also mean that we can talk about isolation in a new way. It is not as big a taboo as it was”, says Maj Morgenstjerne, chief of civic society and co-creation in Aarhus municipality.

On March 30 and 31, the project From Isolation to Inclusion had its first physical partner meeting in the city, after two years of meeting online. Among the topics was how to create sustainable interventions against loneliness.

We share more experiences from the visit on our Facebook page [link]

 I2I partners gathered in Aarhus in March to learn how the Danish municipality works with loneliness and social inclusion.


The GENLYD programme

From 2017 to 2021, loneliness has been rising markedly in the group of 18-24 year olds, going from 12 to 22 per cent.

One of Aarhus’s programmes for alleviating this is the online platform GENLYD, named after the Danish word for resonance. Its aim is to connect people and to prevent and reduce social isolation and loneliness.

“We found that young people needed invitations, not information. That’s why we started GENLYD Aarhus”, says head of the programme Mia Saskia Olesen.

The platform makes it easy for people in search of community to post bulletins. And the people who use genlydaarhus.dk are looking for everything from people to join short walks around the city, to like-minded people to start theater groups with.

“It can be hard work to get involved, to get the activities into your calendar, to show up and be present, and to be interested in other people. But it has given me so much in return. Now I have several good aquaintances to join me for social activities”, says Laura, one of the users of GENLYD. You can read her full story here.

GENLYD has also led to a series of DIY events at Dokk1, the Aarhus public library.

Clara Uhd (left) presents the drop in DIY club at Dokk1 together with the two experience economy students doing their internship at Dokk1.


Communal living

Aarhus has a joint strategy for preventing loneliness. This strategy encompasses everything from health politics to city architecture, culture and sports and leisure politics.

During the partner meeting, the 25 participants from I2I got to visit Generationernes hus, a community building where different generations can live together in a form of communal living.

undefinedGenerationernes hus made an impression on several of the I2I partners, with its focus on communal living and shared spaces.

The building has room for around 800 people, and while the apartments are small, the communal areas are large and comprises among other things a kindergarten, a music room, a woodwork room, kitchens and gathering places, and a venue for talks and converts.

The partners also got to hear from the local stakeholder Husrum, a local NGO working to counteract social isolation and better the mental health amongst young adults.

“It is important to create things together, also internationally. Talking about solutions, we can inspire each other”, says Morgenstjerne.