What things matter to you in your community? Do you care how many shopping malls are nearby? Do you care if nightlife is around the corner to spice up your evenings? Do you care if enough bank offices populate the downtown area?
I didn’t think so. Having people around you that can lend a hand, that say hello, that check on your place when you’re away matters when you’re over 60.
Many of us will live alone, at least for some time of our life, and knowing you have neighbors you can count on in case of a mishap, neighbors who lend a hand when you can’t take your garbage can in, will give a feeling of security and connectedness.
For some, family nearby can fill the role, but most of us have family a distance away. Friends can fill in the gap, but friends don’t always live nearby either. I talked with a walking friend who lives around the corner about what we’d do if we had a mishap, if there were a disaster. We pledged to help each other out and discussed how we could increase support while continuing to be independent.
We decided to start a Community Cafe. So one day, I made a flyer and my friend and I invited women in our neighborhood who were living alone for a late afternoon happy hour with a glass of wine and nibbles to talk about how we could support each other.
Five women attended, and as women will do, we chatted about our interests, our travels and what we might do in case of a power outage, fire or flooding. I provided our local CERT (Community Emergency Response Training) outline for becoming disaster ready. We created a plan to help each other be more prepared, and to support each other when one of us was out of town.
The group is growing. We meet every couple of months at a different person’s house, catch up on each other’s news, invite new members and work on our disaster readiness. We’ve made plans to take a walk around the neighborhood to check out everyone’s gas and water main shut-offs. We’re creating a map showing where the shut-offs are.
Each meeting we move forward with our plan and get to know each other better. A walk, a meeting to share creative endeavors, referrals for the best handy-man are the fringe benefits.
When I walk in my neighborhood, I now say hello to a dozen women by name. I get offers for watering my plants when I tell someone about a trip I’m taking. I get asked to keep an eye on someone’s house in case of a tree branch breaking off, and I may ask to have suspicious activity around my house reported when I’m away. The sense of belonging, of caring for one another gets stronger with each meeting.
It not only takes a village to raise a child, it takes a neighborhood to care for us as we age. Spring and summer are coming. I’m sure I’ll chat more while working in my yard with passers-by who are no longer strangers.
How are you involved in your local neighborhood or community? Do you know anyone who is living alone? What do you think about reaching out to them and getting acquainted? Have you coordinated with neighbors for taking care when others are away or for emergency preparedness? Please share in the comments below.