Good Neighbor Day Important and Gratifying for Older Americans


National Good Neighbor Day on September 28th creates an opportunity for neighbors to get to know each other better. This day acknowledges and celebrates the importance of good neighbors. It was declared a national observance in 1978 by President Jimmy Carter in the following proclamation:

“As our Nation struggles to build friendship among the peoples of this world, we are mindful that the noblest human concern is concern for others. Understanding, love and respect build cohesive families and communities. The same bonds cement our Nation and the nations of the world. For most of us, this sense of community is nurtured and expressed in our neighborhoods where we give each other an opportunity to share and feel part of a larger family…I call upon the people of the United States and interested groups and organizations to observe such day with appropriate ceremonies and activities.”

What does being a “Good Neighbor” mean?

I asked a few people what being a “good neighbor” means to them:

“Being a good neighbor means caring about the people around you and anticipating their needs.  When you see them packing for a trip, offering to get their mail, for example.”  Eileen

“It’s a give-and-take relationship.  When someone does something nice for you, you should make sure to do something nice in return.”  Jeff

“I like seeing the same people every day when I walk my dog.  They’ve become my friends.  I love seeing the kids grow up around the neighborhood.” Brad

“One neighbor lady gets my paper and brings it to my front door every day. Her husband shovels snow for me in the winter. They are the best!” Carol, an older lady

Good Neighbors especially important for older adults

Having good neighbors makes you feel connected to your community and your little square of the world.  It makes you feel safe and secure. You know that you can count on one another if you need anything, or you need to borrow a cup of sugar or even a lawnmower.

Checking in can be especially important to our elderly neighbors who might need our help more frequently but be reluctant to ask for it. In addition to physical limitations, seniors are often vulnerable to depression and loneliness.

This became apparent to me many years ago while walking my dog.  I was approached by an older woman whom I had seen before in the strolling along the paths.  She asked if I often walked my dog here, to which I responded in the affirmative.  She then asked if she could hire me to walk with her each morning.  She said she needed the exercise; Berta strolled with her cane but was afraid to walk alone, unsure of her stability.

I told her I would walk with her, refusing any compensation. The walks began a years-long relationship between Berta and me.  She was from Austria and told me tales of her life there, then moving to Switzerland, owning her own business, and more.  All while we strolled the paths in the neighborhood. She was a treasured friend for the remainder of her life.

You certainly don’t need to make a years-long commitment when you check in on your neighbors.  Just saying hello is plenty, and September 28th is the perfect day to do so!

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