Community – let’s get together for successful ageing

The definition of the community has widened over time.  It has historically referred to groups of people living in the same place, but has expanded to encompass those having a particular interest or characteristic in common. With the explosion of internet connections over the last twenty years, communities can still be found locally, but increasingly also on national and global scales.

A recent report, Age UK’s Index of Wellbeing in Later Life shows that “social and civic  participation and creative and cultural participation are all important, together making  up almost 1/8th of total wellbeing in later life” , so it seems that communities are increasingly important for us as we grow older.

Types of communities

Communities can be associated to a physical place e.g. the local area in which you live or a place of beauty or one needing help. Projects to improve an area, increase its amenities and encourage people to spend time there and get involved (maybe with others) are positive examples, as are initiatives to clean rubbish, plant trees etc.

Alternatively, communities could encompass like-mindedness. These could still be physical and/or close in proximity or they could be virtual online communities. Community members could be drawn together by a common interest, a shared purpose, passion or experience. They may include friends, old acquaintances, peers or bring together initial strangers. Examples include book clubs, meditation groups, choirs, those interested in international cooking or those wanting to speak a foreign language together.

How to get involved

There are so many ways that you could get involved in communities. I’ve moved around a fair amount over the last 25 years and everywhere I’ve lived I’ve been drawn into various voluntary committees representing this and that, and I’ve make some great friends and acquaintances through these. I appreciate that this isn’t everyone’s thing, but there are often ways to still get involved without becoming a full-blown committee member, whilst still reaping many of the same benefits of working towards a common goal. Other alternatives could include volunteering for a charity, acting as a school governor, being a church warden or other efforts that give back to the community.

In terms of your local community there are other ways to show your support. You could ‘buy local’ through using local businesses, shops and tradesmen. You could also support and attend locally organised events or even organise one yourself! You could make offers to support others e.g. help an elderly or sick neighbour or donate to a local cause. A word of warning here: do your best to follow through on anything you promise or commit to. There is nothing more infuriating than when people don’t deliver on their promises, and trust and respect can be easily lost and hard to rebuild.

There are also other more casual ways to get involved in your community: being a good neighbour or simply smiling, being respectful and pleasant to the people you come into contact with. This may seem like common sense to many of you, but it’s amazing how many people seem to overlook these small courtesies. I like the fact that they can also being a good neighbour can be contagious and can often make you feel good too.

Benefits for you

There are natural advantages of being part of any community. From the companionship, social interaction and friendships that can blossom, to having a shared sense of passion and purpose, and gaining trust and respect from others. If this isn’t enough, there is an increasing sense of security in knowing that you can call on help from others, if needed, which can be important at any life stage. So, with these promising benefits, why wouldn’t you want to get involved?

Challenges and options

There can be challenges of course, I’m not claiming that it would always be easy or rosy. Maybe you have a physical disability which makes it hard for you to join up with a community in person. Maybe you have limited time – with too many work, family or other commitments. Maybe you’re introverted, shy or don’t believe you’d fit in. The Internet has helped a lot to address some of these challenges and but sometimes you may just need to dip your toe in to find out more. You can often observe from the inside, before deciding whether it’s right for you and if you want to get more involved.

Whatever your interests or passions there is bound to be a community of some kind out there that suits your interests and needs. And if there isn’t already, why not start your own?!


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