Tips for a happy, healthy relationship with your fellow seniors
Senior communities are a great place to make connections, age in place, and feel a sense of safety and ease navigating daily life and healthcare regimes. But to get the most out of what senior living has to offer, it’s important to note that you have to do some of the work. Social isolation can be a common occurrence in senior living communities, which can lead to more concerning problems than simple boredom. Social isolation has been linked to depression and more rapid advancement of the illness.
So how do we counteract this to make sure your senior living experience matches the promises of the brochure? Well, like anything in life, you get out of something what you put into it. It may be time to make sure you are doing everything you can to be a good neighbor.
Whether you live in independent living, assisted living, or a healthcare community, many of the opportunities we’ve provided for great neighbor interaction will apply to you. Take a look and freshen up on what it takes to be a friendly neighborhood resident!
Read the rules
There is often a document of some sort governing how shared-living spaces work. Don’t be that person who doesn’t know the rules. All obvious reasons for knowing the regulations of your residence aside, if you inadvertently tread over a boundary usually recognized by your neighbors, the unnecessary faux pas can be socially isolating. Pull out your reading glasses and make sure you understand the quirks of your particular home.
Respect shared spaces
This is a good arena in which to know the rules: do you need to book a shared space if you have family visiting? Are there restrictions about when visitors can come? Are there certain quiet hours of the day best undisturbed by your enthusiastic two-year-old grandson? If you can’t find regulations, chat with your neighbors! Keep them aware of your plans and give them the opportunity to share preferences or concerns.
Sometimes, using your own space can be disruptive to shared spaces as well. Be mindful if using your outdoor space is creating too much noise, or if your TV is up too loud at night.
It’s also worth mentioning to respect other people’s private spaces as well. Living in close quarters can encourage fast friendship, but people often do like to have visitors announced. Don’t forget the courtesy call before stopping by an acquaintance’s place for a catch-up.
Whether you live in a shared complex or an independent living facility, your safety is closely tied to the safety of the other residents.
- If you see something suspicious, tell someone.
- Keep your doors locked.
- If anything is broken around your home or around the facility, tell someone.
- Get the contact details for your neighbors and their families, and share yours as well.
- Set a timer when cooking! A fire alarm being set off in your home can quickly become a community-wide incident.
Don’t forget the staff!
Your peers aren’t the only people you are in close proximity with. Whether or not you connect with the staff in any social manner, they will be a presence in your life day in and day out. When people enjoy their interactions at work, they tend to be more cheerful and take more care with their job. These benefits, along with the potential for conversations with an interesting, multi-generational population, are reason enough to make sure to say thank you and ask a few questions about a staff member’s day.
Be a friend
Making new friends is a completely different skill set than maintaining long-term friendships. Any of the small acts below could open up the possibility of further interaction and potentially new friendships.
- Introduce yourself! Someone has to make the first move.
- Participate in the social activities organized by your community.
- Welcome newcomers with local tips, a dinner invite, and your contact details.
- Lend a hand – pick up someone’s mail, help them with their extra bags, hold the door open. A little gesture goes a long way.
- Make an extra effort with withdrawn neighbors. They may just need more time to open up.
- Enjoy common areas rather than locking yourself in at home.
- Organize activities specific to neighbors’ needs – A playdate with similar-aged grandkids so the adults can chat? A less-competitive game of cards with a patient who needs memory care on a night the more competitive game isn’t scheduled?
- Join committees or clubs in alignment with your interests or skills. If there isn’t one, start one!
- Build a community garden.
- Return things you borrow promptly and in the same condition it was given. Was it a dish of food? Fill it with something else to return to the giver with a treat!
- Don’t gossip. It’s a quick way to start a conversation, but it is also poison in a group and will diminish other’s trust in you in the long run.
Being neighborly may not be something you’ve focused much on in the past. It may have come naturally, with the local kids bringing together the families on the street and the homeowner’s association looping you in with their regulations and newsletters. Or maybe everyone in your neighborhood kept mostly to themselves, which feels rather normal these days in the suburbs.
If you haven’t given your role as a neighbor much scrutiny in the past, as a resident of a senior living community, it may be time to dig in. A little effort goes a long way in your living situation being everything you were counting on when you moved in.