Creating Belonging and Reducing Loneliness

The 2018 Australian Loneliness Report presents the statistic that 1 in 4 Australian adults are lonely, and nearly 55% of the population feels lonely at least 1 day a week. If all people were able to create a close-knit community where they live, we can maintain connections with neighbours with whom we can share resources, good times, and happiness. Children of all different ages can interact and play together, creating a healthy culture of active, outdoor, imaginative play. Adults can help each other when in need, and share resources like tools and toys around. The elderly neighbours can interact with the rest of their community and receive support when they need. When people build friendships and have a sense of belonging, their sense of loneliness will decrease, allowing them to develop a healthier mental wellbeing.

During the Covid19 lockdowns, the importance of human connection became even more evident. Everyone was encouraged to call friends often, zoom with your extended family, and spend quality time with those at home. It was at this time that people could feel even more isolated than before, and not be able to ask for help. Other than those in our homes, neighbours were the next closest people around us, and we found that waving hello from afar, loudly chatting from across the street, or helping someone in quarantine get groceries alleviated stress and improved our overall mood for the day.

Community Based Resources Sharing

While the sharing economy is still a debated topic, we can’t deny the benefits of sharing resources among close communities. Exchanging things with your neighbours is a way to make the most of available resources, and for people to stay connected with each other. For example:

  • Tool libraries has been gaining traction around the world, with many volunteers starting them locally as well. On our own streets, lending gardening tools or power tools is very helpful in reducing the cost of each household owning a set with limited usage every year.
  • Little street libraries are where we can share books with people of all ages.
  • Toy libraries with games and sports equipment are a great way for children to have a variety of active fun every day. As kids grow up so fast, their legs can outgrow their bikes quite quickly, so passing on the bikes to different children rather than buying a new one every year can save parents a lot of money.
  • Share school uniforms with children attending the same local schools, school uniforms and accessories like bags and hats can be passed on from recent graduates to younger peers.
  • Food Sharing: Gardening fanatics and cooking geniuses can share food, plants, herbs, or recipes with others.
  • Car sharing: People who work or study in the same area can car pool for cheaper transportation and parking fees.
  • For teenagers and young adults who are preparing to become independent, it is great to be able to work and earn money in their communities with people they already know. Services such as gardening, babysitting, tutoring, dog-walking, and newspaper delivery are jobs that can be done within the community for neighbours, and will be an important part of learning and development for the young people.

We can all benefit economically when we share what we have, limit the need to constantly buy new things, and help each other out, but these exchanges are also another opportunity for healthy interaction with our neighbours.

How could I implement Community engagement on my own street?

  • Door knocking and saying “Hello”
  • Gifting flowers you grew in your garden
  • Sharing the fruits and vegetables that you have too much of
  • Offer to look after your neighbour’s plants or pets
  • Striking up conversation with neighbours when they pass by
  • Car pool or let your kids commute to school with neighbourhood children
  • Putting toys or equipment on your lawn for neighbours to use
  • Setting up chairs outside
  • Encouraging your children to play outside with neighbours
  • Parking your car inside the garage for children to play sport on the road
  • Parking your car outside the garage for children to play in the shade
  • Hold street birthday parties with the neighbours
  • Encourage children to help neighbours in little ways
  • Hang out in your front yard more often
  • Inviting neighbours out for a street dinner/Barbecue
  • Having a small pit to roast marshmallows
  • Put out buckets of water for street water fights
  • Offer to help with gardening or lending of tools
  • Putting up holiday decorations
  • Letting kids get active and ride their bikes on the street
  • Doing Chalk art on your pavement or driveway to make the street inviting