05 Dec Seven Ways to Meet Your Neighbours – to Age Well
Whether we’ve lived in a place five days or five decades, knowing our neighbours and the people who live there helps us feel more connected to people and place, and builds our social support networks. So how do we build those connections? Here are some everyday strategies I’ve been gathering from folks for several years.
1. Spend time outside
Whether you’re weeding the flowers, reading a book, or playing with children or your dog, being out front leads naturally to conversations with people passing by. If you live in an apartment building, try sitting on the front step, hang out on your balcony, or bring a chair outside and sit in front. Just saying “hi” to folks gives a warmer feel to a neighbourhood or apartment building.
2. Walk around the block
If you make a habit of walking around your neighbourhood, or spending time in an apartment building’s common spaces, you’ll start to notice familiar faces, and you’ll start looking familiar to others. This makes it easier after a while to say “hi”, or pause and chat, maybe when you’re checking your mailbox, or if you have a dog that takes you out every day.
3. Spend time in public places
Take yourself or your partner to a neighbourhood park or coffee shop and settle in for a while. Read the paper, do a crossword, or just sit and enjoy the sights and sounds. This encourages other folks to do the same over time, and before you know it, conversations have started.
4. Shake one hand every week
If you’re new to a neighborhood or apartment building, you might want to knock on a different door each week. Take along a small something – homemade jam or cookies, for instance, or flowers from your garden. Stay in the hallway or on the front step as you introduce yourself, and let them know who you are and where you live.
5. Say it in writing
If the above ideas sound like too much for a shyer or more reserved person, a short note with a jar of jam or some flowers, left at the neighbour’s door, can make a difference. Let them know who you are, and that you’re around if they need anything.
6. Offer to help
When you see someone struggling, offer to help, such as holding the door or carrying a package, and start a conversation . One of our neighbours, now long gone, used to wander over whenever he saw us working on something and say, “I have just the tool for that. I’ll go get it for you.” His elderly kindness helped us get to know him and made us feel that we belonged.
7. Get involved
Check out GoodNS.ca, other volunteer listing, or your local library to get connected to groups and activities you’re interested in. If you join a group, remember that people need to see you show up at meetings about seven times before they will think of you as part of the group, so hang in there if the group’s interests and values match your own.