Loving the neighbours or living in harmony with them isn’t anything new for Indians. While our urban population may see a few challenges in this aspect, many still try and hold on to this concept. Many households have grown up side by side, seen each other’s ups and downs, and more. Occasions of people knocking on a neighbour’s door for grocery emergencies aren’t uncommon! Sharing and caring among neighbours hold up a community and help sustenance in a big way. It was felt more during the pandemic times, especially the first and second lockdown phases. Many senior citizens who had their kith and kin in different cities or countries found help from neighbouring volunteers for grocery supplies or medical assistance.
In cities, we may have neighbours from different parts of the country. They may be speaking different languages and following diverse traditions. There is also the possibility of picking quarrels with them over something silly. However, for the sake of harmony, it is best to embrace diversity, ignore what we don’t like, and keep a healthy relationship. If you are not comfortable with them, there is no need to go overboard and invite them over for dinner! However, courteous greetings and friendly how do you dos, can work wonders.
So, get to know your neighbours and keep the door open. They are your first port of call for any help, and in that sense, more important than family. They can help you get a feel of the missing family, prop you up when you feel down, and become an extended family. There are many benefits of knowing your neighbours. However, let’s not forget the English proverb, love your neighbour, yet, don’t pull down your hedge! Before we decipher this proverb, let’s see how and why knowing neighbours become important.
Good neighbours can help each other to feel safe. Any unwanted (suspicious) movement gets reported, especially if you are not around. That joke about the neighbours being your CCTV in the olden days is true! If you are a senior living alone without immediate family, neighbours can help you get to a hospital in emergencies. Having neighbours checking in on you even if occasionally, creates a warm feeling of someone looking out. It is helpful to create a safety net.
A little gossip helps
Gossip need not always be bad. Neighbourhood chit-chats are the place for information dissemination. You get a lot of input about anything good and bad happening in the neighbourhood. You would know where there is a sale, where a new grocery store came up, when and how to register for a specific service, etc. You may also get a lot of unwanted inputs that you can safely ignore. But the benefits far outweigh being up to date!
Gives a sense of belonging
As we age, there is always the chance that we may feel isolated, left out, etc. Good neighbours can together help build a safe and caring community where people care and look after each other. It gives a sense of belonging and a new purpose to life. If the vibes match, you could plan outings, and dinners, celebrate festivals together, etc. People may check in to see why you missed out on some gathering. It makes you feel some people care about your absence. Some warm food from the neighbours is more welcome than ordering something if you are sick.
Keeps you physically and mentally healthy
Social interaction is vital as we age. It is more so in today’s pandemic times. There is a good chance of anxiety and depression affecting us otherwise. Good, connected neighbourhoods expand our social circles – real ones compared to virtual ones. This social circle can be a lifeline as it can help you stay positive, happy, and healthy. It will prompt you to leave your TV and go for walks, which keeps you physically active. Even scientific studies have proved that the higher social interaction, the better our brain health is.
You may feel motivated to try new activities like joining a Yoga or Zumba class or picking up a hobby. You may feel empowered when a neighbour seeks your help to learn something new like your favourite recipe. Maybe you love pets but cannot afford to keep one for reasons other than financial. You could choose to make friends with your neighbours’ pets and even offer to watch them for a while. You could leave your plants with them when you travel.
There are enough and more reasons to know your neighbours. However, a word of caution. Unless you feel they are fully trustworthy, keep that hedge up. Do not share everything openly, especially financial details and passwords. Draw the line at them being nosey. Give and take respect, and ensure either side doesn’t cross some boundaries if you love your privacy. Make sure that they have your immediate emergency contacts and vice versa.