Almost one third of Americans have no interactions with their neighbors, according to a report by the nonprofit City Observatory. That’s a big change from the 1970s when almost 30% said that they spent time with their neighbors at least twice a week.
What’s behind this shift? Maybe it’s because we spend so much time on our phones or chatting online. Maybe it’s the result of changing jobs and moving more frequently.
However it happened, there’s a lot of evidence that it’s a significant loss. Take a look at the benefits of getting to know your neighbors and easy ways to make it happen.
- Make new friends. It can be difficult to make friends as we grow older. Exploring your immediate surroundings creates a lot of new prospects. Just living in the same place already gives you something in common.
- Exchange support. Knowing your neighbors pays off when you need advice about how to water your lawn or you want to borrow a wrench. You can help each other save time and money.
- Stay safe. Whether you organize an official neighborhood watch or just keep an eye out for each other, close communities discourage crime. You’ll make your homes and streets safer.
- Build community. The biggest advantage may be feeling like you belong. You’ll be happy to come home each evening when you like and trust the family who lives next door.
- Take a walk. When you’re driving your car, it’s difficult to stop and chat. Try travelling around your area on foot. Wave and say hello to anyone you see. Comment on the weather or strike up a conversation if they seem friendly.
- Hang out. Just being visible can help. If your house has a front porch or yard, use it for reading and eating. If not, look for shared spaces like community rooms or pools.
- Participate on Nextdoor. Register for Nextdoor or become more active. It’s a social network where you can stay informed about your neighborhood.
- Ask questions. Are you looking for recommendations for a plumber or a dermatologist? Your neighbors will probably appreciate a chance to share their knowledge, especially if you return the favor.
- Volunteer your services. Charity runs and food drives are a great way to meet others who care about your community. Contact a group that sounds interesting or check with your local volunteer clearinghouse.
- Gather contact information. It’s easier to stay in touch when you have someone’s name and phone number. Volunteer to put together an online resource where anyone can keep their details updated if they want to.
- Adopt a dog. Pets are surefire icebreakers. Let your dog introduce you to someone new at the local park or a coffee shop with an outdoor patio.
- Schedule playdates. Children can help too. You might meet other parents while walking your younger sons and daughters to the school bus or shopping for clothes. Follow up by making plans to get together soon.
- Throw a party. Entertaining can be easy. Invite a few neighbors over at a time for small dinners. Organize a potluck or a picnic where everyone can share the work.
- Set a goal. Setting a specific goal may help you to stay on track. You could aim to speak with one new neighbor a week or organize a book club within the next month.
Developing positive relationships with your neighbors is an easy way to feel happier and more secure. Reach out and see what happens. You might make a new friend or at least have someone to say hello to each morning.