Aging and The Beauty of Community

For many of us, the holiday season—typically a time of family and social gatherings—is shaping up as an experience like no other. Some of us in the neighborhood wondered if we even wanted to bother with outside decorations. Due to the pandemic, many of us who are older aren’t planning on having any company. But then just a day after Thanksgiving, some of our neighbors started stringing lights on their homes and setting up deer, snowmen, even a grinch or two on their lawns. Within about a week, our block started looking like Disneyland at night. Why were we all bothering?  I think we were doing it for each other as much as for ourselves.

Neighborhoods That Become Communities

I’m fortunate to live in a neighborhood where most of us do experience a sense of community. If someone in the neighborhood has to be gone for a couple of days, there are always people who will watch their homes.  If any of us needs help with something, we feel free to ask any number of people who live near us for a hand.

A couple of weeks ago, a neighbor texted me because I’d forgotten to shut the garage door one evening. When another neighbor had surgery, a few of us checked in on her and brought food to her house. When a break-in occurs in the community or something suspicious happens, news travels quickly. We watch out for each other.

Because of COVID, about the only time I’ve seen our neighbors lately is during my daily walks. Regardless of the weather, I typically run into someone from the community. When I do, I visit for a few short minutes while maintaining a safe distance.

Even though these are not normal times and our contact with others is limited, it is comforting to know that we are surrounded by people we know and trust. I suspect that a lot of people are not so fortunate. I know a person who shared that he hasn’t talked to one of his nearby neighbors in more than a decade; in fact, none of his neighbors really communicate much with each other.

I hadn’t thought about how important my community was until I retired a couple of years ago. Before then, I assumed that one of the most important considerations for aging in place was to live in an accessible, single-story home. I also knew that the availability of good medical care and other services was important. But now that I’m spending more time at home, I see things a bit differently.

Finding a Community and a Forever Home

One of my dear friends is house-searching for the last time. She needs a home where she can age in place. She wants to find a single-story home in a safe neighborhood. Finding a neighborhood with a sense of community wasn’t something she’d considered. But as we talked about how she wanted to experience her new life in retirement, finding the right community became as important as finding the right home.

Personally, I don’t want to live in a 55+ neighborhood. At the same time, I don’t want to live in a PTA neighborhood. Even though most of my neighbors are 55+, younger families with children do live near us. If you were to drive around our neighborhood, you’d see a few curbside basketball hoops where younger people live.

If you visited my neighborhood during the day, you’d also notice a fair number of people walking their dogs. I live in a community of pet owners.  

My friend found a neighborhood she loved when she started volunteering to walk her daughter’s dog each day.  She told me that she got to know the neighbors and they knew her too. She is now looking for a home in a neighborhood near where her daughter lives.

If you are not already living in your ‘forever’ home, it might be a good idea to get a feel for the environment beyond the front porch of any home you are considering.

 

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