How neighbours can create meaningful connections

The theme for this year’s National Neighbour Day on Sunday March 31, 2019 is creating connected communities. Even though we may live in close proximity there are many people – particularly those ageing in their own homes – who are feeling the loneliness that comes from a lack of connection.

Research on loneliness paints a confronting picture:

  • Loneliness is associated with poor physical health, poor socio-economic outcomes, social anxiety, and poor mental health.
  • It increases the likelihood of mortality by 26% – similar to the effect of smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
  • Loneliness is associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease and stroke, high blood pressure and the onset of disability. People who are socially isolated, or do not have good quality social support, are at greater risk of dying earlier than those with good social connections.
  • Australia is in the midst of a loneliness crisis, with many in our population experiencing a deficit of social connection, that is, they do not enjoy meaningful relationships in their lives to sustain and nurture them, particularly through difficult times.

With many Australians being more time poor than ever before, fewer people know, and interact with, their neighbours and are members of community groups. National Neighbour Day provides an opportunity to reinvigorate our communities, get people to connect with their neighbours and in doing so, drive a dent in loneliness.

The 2019 Neighbour Day campaign encourages all Australians to take the ‘loneliness challenge’ by trying out these handy tips:

1. Start simply: say hello when you see your neighbours – a smile and a wave can go a long way.

2. Spend more time on your veranda, balcony or front yard as a simple way to connect with nearby neighbours and those passing by.

3. Take a walk – we could all use the exercise and you’re more likely to run into people outside where even a simple hello gets you started.

4. Organise a ‘cuppa by the kerb’ – invite a few neighbours to bring a cuppa and have a chat in the street together at a set time. It’s low effort and very simple to do.

5. Reach out to neighbours who you know are living alone. Knock on their door to introduce yourself, pop a note in their letterbox to let them know you are there if they ever need a hand, and then exchange numbers in case of an emergency.

6. Ask your neighbour if they’d like to accompany you to a local community event.

7. Start a neighbourhood walking group – it doesn’t have to be big, just a neighbour or two to start – and see what happens.

8. Share some home cooking or baking or garden produce with a neighbour as a friendly gesture.

9. Offer to help your neighbour with a small or large job around the house, or perhaps in the garden or garage, or offer to share your handyperson, IT or other skills, if you have them.

10. Invite a neighbour over for a casual lunch or dinner – and perhaps make it a regular thing. See how you go, you may find weekly, fortnightly or each month works well.

11. Drop off a meal if your neighbour has been unwell or is having a tough time.

12. Welcome new neighbours to your neighbourhood by ringing the doorbell, introducing yourself, and even offering to help with the move in if you are able.

13. Take over treats, for any reason (or no reason at all). Everyone loves treats.

14. Plan a potluck dinner or progressive dinner where everyone prepares a course. Discover more neighbourly connection tips on the Neighbour Day website.

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