Creating a safer, more cohesive, connected neighbourhood

There are many benefits to buying a new home in a brand new, modern and stylish estate – tidy streets, community facilities, a chance to make your environment exactly what you want it to be.

But to ensure the best lifestyle, it is important to turn that estate into a neighbourhood – a connected community.  And at the heart of a neighbourhood are neighbours.

There has been a lot of research over the years, all which indicates that knowing your neighbours, at least recognising them, will enhance your feelings of safety, wellbeing and mental health.

Knowing your neighbours can also help you to recognise when there are people in your neighbourhood that perhaps don’t belong, bringing your attention to suspicious behaviour that you can report to authorities.

Knowing your neighbours doesn’t mean that you have to ‘live in each other’s’ pockets’ . If a strong friendship forms, fantastic.  But it may just be that you look for the opportunity to catch their eye, and you don’t hesitate to ask and offer help.

At any time, especially during the COVID 19 pandemic, it is vital to be in touch with the people around you.

So, what are some of the things you can do know that will connect you to your neighbours and enhance the spirit of the neighbourhood during these challenging times.

1. Say “hi” and wave.

Exercise is one of the 4 legitimate reasons you can be outdoors during Stage 3 restrictions. So when you’re out and about, give your neighbours a wave and a smile and say “hi”. If it’s a nice day, sit outside in your front yard with a cuppa and wave and say “hello” as your neighbours go by. A small interaction can really brighten someone’s day.

2. Offer to help with their gardening.

Bit of a green thumb, or just want another reason to get out of your house? You could offer to mow your neighbour’s lawn or nature strip while you’re doing your own. You could also help with weeding or trimming back shrubs, trees and lawn edges, especially around windows and entry ways.

3. Brighten their day with a homemade surprise.

It could be a bouquet of flowers or a potted cutting from your garden, some home-grown veggies or fruit, a jar of homemade preserves, a plate of home-baked treats or perhaps some fresh eggs, if you have chooks. Maybe when you’re cooking your own meal, make an extra serve for your neighbour and drop it around. Leave the goodies on their door step with a note. You will definitely put a smile on their face.

4. Leave a note in their mailbox offering to help.

Download and print out our “Happy to help” cards, fill them in and drop them in your neighbours’ letterboxes. You can offer to pick up groceries, prescriptions or other essentials, run an errand, take their dog for a walk, or anything else. It’s a great way to reach out.

5. Offer a regular “check-in and chat”.

If you have neighbours who are elderly, live alone, have disabilities or are immunocompromised, offer to call them every few days to make sure they are doing okay. If they don’t have friends or family, they may appreciate the chance to chat with someone. However, always check to see what their preferred way to communicate is – phone call, text message, notes in the mailbox, email or something else. And don’t be offended if they turn down your offer – they may already have someone looking out for them.

6. Organise a driveway happy hour.

Grab a chair, your beverage of choice, your sandwich or even your barbecue and sit in your front yard or driveway. Encourage your neighbours to do the same and chat to each other at a safe social distance. If you’re musically-inclined you could add instruments and singing to the mix and start your very own neighbourhood band.

7. Start a neighbourhood chat group.

Start a chat group for your street or neighbourhood on WhatsApp or Messenger. Residents can post requests for assistance or make offers to help. It’s also a great “no contact” way to check in with your neighbours and make sure they’re doing okay.

However you do it, make connecting with your neighbours a priority for a happier lifestyle and enhanced wellbeing.

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