You can choose your friends, but you can’t always choose your neighbours. Contacts with both have to be nurtured, and even more so if you want to benefit from having neighbourly relations in old age. If you need support, such as in the house or for heavy gardening work, or if you want to become involved in the community yourself and offer help, say by supervising children’s homework, neighbours are often the first people who can help you or could do with help themselves.
In addition to the kind of mutual assistance that just happens in the course of everyday life, there are often local groups and societies who are committed to helping people in need. Their members make home visits and many of them offer household help. Services of this kind are available through local parishes or welfare associations, sometimes through housing associations and often via self-organised neighbourhood schemes. If you are interested in voluntary work, the municipal authorities or local administration office can provide details of contact points such as volunteer agencies, senior citizens offices and multi-generation homes. For most voluntary workers, social engagement allows them to perform meaningful activities that give them personal satisfaction along with new contacts, encounters and experience. They sometimes receive monetary reward to cover expenses or give them a little extra income. Whatever its form, social engagement can be enriching – especially for older people who are fit, want to stay active and participate in social life.
Further useful tips on creating an organised neighbourhood are available from the Neighbourhood Network organisation on the Internet at
Sometimes, it’s just little things that cement neighbourly relations, turning polite coexistence into helpful cooperation and support. Neighbourhood initiatives promote contacts and encounters, strengthen local cooperation, enable social engagement and participation, and provide mutual help and support. And most importantly, the keys to good neighbourliness are common interests and trust. A chat in the hallway or over the garden fence, an invitation to a barbecue – these are the small things that make a neighbourhood work. They nurture relations that can be relied on when a bigger favour is needed or when we need to ask for more regular support. There are many things you can do yourself – some of them take a bit of effort, while others involve hardly any at all.