Five ways to give to your neighbours
On March 26 Australia celebrates Neighbour Day, an initiative facilitated by Relationships Australia to recognise strong communities, encourage social connection, and ensure the welfare of those who live around us.
Amidst studies that note strong communities lead to better life satisfaction, a sense of wellbeing, and possibly even better health, here are five ways to “give” to your neighbours, and why it benefits communities as a whole.
It takes little effort to smile at a neighbour, to utter a welcoming hello, but this is the first bridge to friendship in a communities increasingly isolated by technology. Small acts of kindness go a long way, like the few minutes it takes to help an elderly neighbour transport their shopping from a car, the seconds involved in holding open a lift door or the brief moment required to ask a stranger how their day has been.
Other acts include acknowledging new neighbours with a fresh batch of biscuits, or simply popping a note in the mail, welcoming their arrival.
In their excellent list of Very Neighbourly Tips, Relationships Australia also notes it’s particularly important to make contact with the elderly, offering just your time if it’s welcome. That includes time for a quick cuppa, time to write a note to let them know you’re available if they need anything, or time to stop for a chat, shooting the breeze.
Every community needs the type of neighbour you can call in an emergency – the person who’ll check you’ve locked the door, take in your mail while you’re away or feed the household cat.
That type of neighbour is invaluable to a community, binding people together through the smallest of tasks. In today’s modern society, that neighbour is increasingly important ensuring the welfare of the elderly, vulnerable, the stay at home mum, or recent home leaver, providing a backstop when family is far from their current home.
Simple assistance like watching someone’s children while they do their shopping or carpooling on the school run all improve the quality of life and social cohesion of communities.
Meanwhile, communities where people are encouraged to take part also lead to a greater sense of wellbeing. Acts like a street party, group clean-up or weekend barbecue around the unit’s shared pool help people feel like they belong and are invested in their local environment.
But neighbourly acts aren’t just about notes, cups of sugar and taking in the mail. They’re also about shared activities and interests. That can be as easy as establishing a sporting group, a book club, mother’s meeting or communal garden where neighbour’s meet to till the soil and reap the rewards of a harvest well sown.
In 2014 the University of Michigan noted communities with a sense of cohesion could reduce the risk of heart attack in residents aged over 50. The study asked 5276 participants to rate their communities on a seven point scale, asking whether they felt their neighbours were trustworthy, reliable and friendly, and if they felt connected to their community.
Running over four years, the study found that every mark-up in neighbourhood cohesion on the scale led to a 17% reduction in the odds of heart disease, and those who gave a full score of seven had a 67% reduced risk of heart attack.
A further study by the same team found it could also reduce the risk of stroke by up to 48%.
Meanwhile Relationships Australia notes a range of studies show social exclusion and loneliness are detrimental to mental and physical health, while social participation is positively associated with improved wellbeing for individuals, families and communities.
StrataSpot’s aim is to foster a sense of community in strata environments. We do this through our cloud based software that allows residents to interact, post social events, enjoy shared spaces and facilitate information sharing.
To learn more about our services for strata communities, see here.