Credit: Ambera

We have to dare to talk about loneliness

A Christmas card from Ambera founder Jan Olav Frestad.

It’s Christmas Eve and kitchens all over the country are full of family members preparing their pinnekjøtt and ribbe together. To us Norwegians, Christmas represents a rare chance to spend some slow quality time with all the people closest to us. Of all our holidays, Christmas is perhaps the most beautiful one. This is a time when we think about the people we love and the people we miss. It is a time for contemplation and a time for gratefulness – for what we have and for who we get to share it with.

But there is a less cheerful side to Christmas as well. To many people, Yuletide is associated with loneliness and anxiety and every year both newspapers and Facebook feeds are flooded with stories about the people who dread December. Suggestions on how the problem could be solved however, are not as frequent. This is why I decided to sit down to write this.

My main motivation behind developing and building the Ambera project is to give people a better life and prevent loneliness. Involuntary solitude is something most of us go through at some point in our lives and I am no exception. We know now that it affects not only our mental health, but that it is actually life threatening, in fact research shows that loneliness is comparable to smoking fifteen cigarettes per day. This knowledge along with my own experiences with loneliness makes me very motivated to do what I can to prevent others from having to go through the same thing.

Today, there is a large consensus among real estate developers, architects and psychologists about the positive effects a good living situation can have on our health and social life. Social architecture is a term that most people have become familiar with, and any new public buildings with little or no social benefits are massively criticized by journalists and upset citizens on social media. In Norway, The Bar Code project in Oslo is one of the more famous examples. So why are people engaged by this?

Because – and this is a fact – where we live, affects how we live. Physically and psychologically. It’s really that simple.

A way of living that I really believe in and which social benefits I have witnessed with my own eyes, is the concept of active adult communities. Research shows that living in an active adult community decreases the risk loneliness with 50 per cent. In America, more than one and a half million live social and active lives in these communities today, yet there’s not a single project here in Europe. I can’t wait to build the first one.

We won’t completely defeat loneliness by building our community, but the benefits of these kinds of social real estate concepts are very real, and I feel so privileged to be a part of developing this project for us Europeans.

So, Merry Christmas and a happy new year. I look forward to talking to you about Ambera in the year to come!


Jan Olav Reien Frestad