My article on putting community back into community aged care prompted some comment which challenges each and every one of us to build community and connect isolated older people in their community.
Sounds all well and good but it is a bit ‘passive’ in its urging. We need more that motherhood statements.
In the article I shared a link to a great resource prepared by Beyond Blue. The resource is a ‘how to’ for individuals to map and make a plan for reconnecting. It is this sort of resource that might be welcome for each us as we consider putting our ‘good intentions’ into action.
How and what can we individually do to play our part in reconnecting and building community? Some of these tips might also help our clients extend their networks of support.
When we meet older people (or others for that matter) in our community we could strike up conversations to ‘get to know them better’.
It’s always hard to start conversations with strangers but are some tips
- ask a question that will require more than a Yes or No response; like
- “what changes have you seen in this community over the years you’ve lived here”
- “what drew you to live in this community”
- “may I ask your opinion on ____”
- Check out this great set of resources for starting conversations 100 Questions
- Beyond Blue has also developed some prompts to show your receptive and ways of opening up conversations for those experiencing stress, anxiety and depression.
Accept or extend an invitation
I love this option as you and other might grow from an invitation – it is truly a two way win:win.
People remain isolated because no one reaches out to them. If we just asked then they truly ‘might come’.
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”
(as per Mathew 7:7)
Perhaps the accepting and invitation is the easy part – the finding ‘someone’ might be the hard part. Well no, not really. You can just approach a local not for profit or community organisation or group and ask them for suggestions. They may also make the connections to help you ‘accept or invite others.
Start a local ‘explore our neighbourhood’ group
We can all learn something about our neighbourhood from those who have lived in the area longer than us. This will allow anyone, any age, contribute to the group. This group could explore the neighbourhood ‘in person’ or do it ‘virtually’ if its suits the members.
Everyone who contributes will benefit from the exchange. You might even capture ‘oral histories’ from your members or intentionally go out and gather them – after all most people like to talk about their past and experiences.
Offer to help a neighbour
Yes that’s right – seek out someone in your street who is older, frail or isolated and offer a hand. How do you identify these people? Well ask your immediate neighbours if they know of someone. Neighbourhood Watch might be another avenue for referrals. Local Councils might run a ‘Know your Neighbour’ initiatives, if they don’t now might be the time to ask them to start one. See also these tips from RACQ.
Join a local community group
In most communities you will find a local community group doing great things on a local, national and sometimes even global basis. Offer your services and see how quickly you begin to build community connections. Invite others to join you.
Start a clean up campaign or community working bee
This has a double benefit, as if the previous examples didn’t also! There is a great movement in Europe (Sweden) called Plogging or Pick and Runs where people who are already out running pick up trash as they run their route.
While I am not suggesting running as it might be hard to strike up conversations (especially for the less physically fit! read me) but a casual walk around the park would suffice.
Map your local groups – know who, what and where they are AND SHARE
Share this information any chance you get to make a connection or encourage a new member. Act like a membership office for all the local groups in your community. The more you know about these groups the more you can spruik their benefits to those you meet and potential new members.
So go on – you know you can do it – get out there and make a new connection – it might help someone.