Whether we realize it or not, being connected with our community has been a staple of our lives since we were children. We formed friendships on the bus we took to school every day, attended neighborhood barbeques with the family that sat behind us at church every week or engaged in some light rivalry with the couple down the street who seemed to never lose a game of cards – no matter how many times we played against them.
Often times, without even realizing it, we are forming bonds with people with whom we have even the slightest bit of interaction with. Think about it – when you go to the grocery store, you recognize some people, like the woman who always seems to have the number just before you in the deli line. When you call for takeout, they might know your order by heart simply because of your name or phone number. When your car needs servicing, you’ll likely take it to the same mechanic or workshop you visited the last time you needed work done.
Even these small, ordinary interactions are what make us feel like we belong. This very feeling of connectedness is precisely what provides us with a sense of security and the opportunity to form new relationships that are vital to our happiness throughout our entire lives. But, as we age, these little familiarities can disappear.
Unfortunately, as we age, the decline in our ability to be physically independent results in a feeling of increased isolation. If we are no longer driving, we don’t see that mechanic or that pesky woman at the deli, who in some strange way provided comfort. Now that we are retired, we don’t see our co-workers or meet new people who we can form friendships or even acquaintances with. This new dynamic of social isolation has negative side effects – both emotionally and physically, but there are solutions.
Senior living communities provide more than just the basic necessities of life. Beyond the obvious benefits of onsite care-givers and daily activities that a community provides, it also places seniors in an environment with others who are like-minded. Peers who have similar interests and life experiences, and the prospects of new, fulfilling social interactions.
It is not just an apartment or home that one occupies. It is the nod from a neighbor in the hallway. It is the feeling you get when someone calls you by your name or the comfort you feel when the chef knows you don’t like onions, so you never have to worry about them showing up on your plate.
It is a sense of belonging and that is irreplaceable.