When I moved to my one-stop-sign town of about 30 homes six months ago, I was a little nervous about talking my dog Hugo on our usual walks down the street. Not because I live in shady part of town, but because there is only about a half-mile stretch of country road that I would consider “walkable” before walking right into blind hills that are dominated by speeding cars and trucks. Cautiously, we embarked (pun intended). My nerves were quickly put to rest by the generosity of my neighbors.
Greeted by a few waves and smiles, Hugo even made a friend at our turn-around point. After some short chit chat about moving away from the ruckus of the city, my neighbor welcomed me to the neighborhood and reassured me that everyone around tried to help keep an eye on one another. It wasn’t too shortly after I had settled in that I realized that all of the friendly faces and pleasant conversations I was having were all with older adults.
My first attempt at trying to find any sort positive feedback about older adults as neighbors from an internet search proved disappointing and full of paranoid stories about why everyone should be scared and suspicious of their neighbors. Upon doing a little digging on why older adults seem to be more comfortable with the role of "neighbor," I found an interesting interview on NPR with Peter Lovenhiem, professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology.
Lovenhiem authored “In the Neighborhood,” where he writes about his adventures getting to know his Rochester neighbors in Rochester. What I liked most about this interview was that Lovenheim never claimed to be a sociologist, but noted that his research was self-interested. So why don’t people know their neighbors anymore?
Mostly pinned down to a lack of front porches, the existence of central air and more entertaining technology in our homes, Lovenhiem supposes that people just aren’t outside as much as they used to be. The good news is the spirit still remains! Some ideas and benefits that Prof. Lovenhiem points out, I think, can be particularly useful in bringing together neighbors of all generations:
- Save money, time and energy by being able to walk over to a neighbor to use their vanilla extract.
- Crime and medical emergencies sometimes leave only a few minutes available for important decisions to made, making a 15 minute drive to a close family member too far away. Neighbors can help out. For older neighbors, knowing someone is nearby can be particularly reassuring.
- Knowing your neighbors in time of power outage can help save resources or just help pass the time.
Getting to know your neighbors doesn’t have to instill fear of in your heart. As long as you are within your comfort zone and feel safe, getting to know your neighbors, even just a little, could end in friendship and community growth.
CAC Graduate Assistant