NEW research reveals more than half of the UK population has some anxiety about socialising without restrictions, with 10 per cent going as far as to say they are scared.
People living in Northern Ireland feel least anxious with 63 per cent having identified as feeling excited or relieved about the end of restrictions.
A study across the UK by OnePoll for The Big Lunch, an event aimed at building more connected communities, found that over 55 per cent of the population feel anxious, apprehensive, or scared about socialising without restrictions.
The research conducted in April 2021 suggests high levels of re-entry anxiety and concerns about our ability to socialise as we come out of the latest lockdown period.
However, despite 64 per cent of respondents worrying about socialising with large groups or in crowded places, the one positive found in the research is that three quarters of the population are comfortable meeting smaller groups locally for picnics or community barbecues.
Allison Forbes, project manager for South West Age Partnership Tyrone and Fermanagh, is looking forward to getting involved in The Big Lunch this year as a way of re-connecting with the community.
She said: “With more than 21,500 people aged 60+ living in the Fermanagh and Omagh area we know only too well how the pandemic has restricted the lives of all but particularly older people.
"The past year has been extremely difficult and with many of us worried about post lockdown socialising, a Big Lunch activity is the perfect way to ease back into the social bubble with friends, family and neighbours.
“Obviously, we must be mindful that Covid is still with us and how important it is to abide by the current restrictions however the coming weeks are looking more promising in terms of meeting in small groups to have fun, share food and re-connect.
"This is a wonderful opportunity for everyone to join in, outdoors, over the fence or online and to celebrate community spirit.”
Patrick Hosey, from Omagh, added: “I find gardening great for the soul and I do what I can to help develop Strathroy community garden. That's been a great health benefit in lockdown.
"I find the Big Lunch and Eden Project a great source of ideas and everyone supports each other. I am doing a talk about the difference getting outside and growing has made to me for an upcoming workshop for The Big Lunch and Food for Life get-together.
"I am looking forward to doing The Big Lunch this year and doing what I can to spread a bit of cheer after the year it has been."
The Big Lunch, an idea from the Eden Project, supported by The National Lottery and Iceland Foods, attracts millions of people across the UK each year.
This year, there are more reasons than ever to get together so why not have a Big Lunch and start connecting where you live. Join in the fun from June 5 at thebiglunch.com