September 28 is National Good Neighbor Day. An observation that grew out of an initiative led by Montana resident Becky Mattson in the early 1970s, the holiday was proclaimed a National "Day" by President Jimmy Carter in 1978. Why? Because good neighbors create good neighborhoods. And we all acknowledge that good neighborhoods are safer, better, more supportive, more active, and friendlier places.
Neighborhoods filled with individuals who care about one another and who will work together for the common good can be found anywhere—a suburban cul-de-sac, a single floor in a high rise apartment building, a senior apartment or condominium community, a marina filled with live-aboard boaters, or a base of military families.
Make New Friends, Keep the Old
If you are contemplating a move to a senior apartment community in your area, you will likely be able to maintain ongoing relationships with existing friends and old neighbors. You may not see them as frequently, but that will give you an opportunity to meet new friends. You know what they say about that—the difference between "silver and gold." They are both precious!
Moving is always difficult, not only because of the physical effort, but because of the unknown. Simple gestures make a huge impression. Ask anyone who has experienced multiple moves, whether they have been corporate transfers to different cities, or cross-town moves to new homes. A knock on the door on move-in day, with a list of names and phone numbers of close neighbors, might be the best welcome a newcomer could receive. Later, the willingness to share a cup of coffee or a cool drink might spell the beginning of a great, lasting relationship.
A Two-Way Street
Building community is a two-way street, however. Whether you are the one who is moving in or getting a new neighbor there are no strict rules about who makes the first contact. Friendly waves and smiles lead to longer conversations. A chance encounter in the lobby can lead to hours of shared experiences. When you move in to your senior apartment, be prepared to take those first steps, if necessary. The etiquette of generations past has been supplanted by more casual practices. Just as it is no longer frowned upon for a young women to make the first contact with an interesting young man, it is today entirely appropriate for the "newcomer" to invite existing neighbors in for a cup of coffee or a glass of wine.
If you are hesitant to do that, try a more casual approach: Sit on your patio with a magazine and pitcher of lemonade. Bring a paperback to the park bench when you know your neighbors will be passing by. Many great friendships have been formed through front porch encounters, dog walking excursions and working in the garden. Act in the moment—shake hands and exchange a few pleasantries. Chances are that the other person won't remain a stranger for long. If you’re feeling more proactive, knock on a neighbor's door to ask about the best dry cleaners, a wonderful hair stylist or the local library. Be inventive! If you love movies, ask about local theaters. Inquire about a local ceramics class or investment club. If you bake, share a plate of cookies with your nearest neighbors.
National Good Neighbor Day goes beyond getting to know you activities to focus on the benefits of a cohesive community. Security and happiness are the primary benefits of a healthy neighborhood, according to Action for Happiness. Relating to others is key to happiness, according to this coalition of individuals with the common goal of building a more caring society. Good neighbors share a sense of belonging and benefit from that shared identity.