How to be more neighbourly

How to be more neighbourly
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Meet our experts: Caroline Abrahams is Charity Director at Age UK who promote neighbourliness through befriending services and organised social events.

Chris Gittins is Director and Founder of Streets Alive, which promotes community spirit through street parties and neighbourhood events

Whether you’ve just moved to a new area or have lived in the same street all your life, it’s never too late to get to know your neighbours. From a natter over the fence to a street party, being neighbourly doesn’t take much and it’s a terrific way to boost your mood. Studies show it could even lower your risk of depression and heart disease.

Getting involved in your community could help tackle loneliness too – an issue that affects more than 50 per cent of people over 65.

Find out what’s already going on

With a little research you might find that there’s lots of things happening on your doorstep. “If there’s something you enjoy doing, why not see if there’s already a local club for it?” says Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK. Local noticeboards and shop windows often display adverts for various clubs and societies.

If you’re online, visit www.meetup.com and join up to hear about regular get-togethers with people in your area, from cinema-screenings to coffee mornings.

Your local Age UK will also be able to direct you to community events near you. For quirkier options, check ifthere’s a local Rock Choir near you, or bring a bake to a local Clandestine Cake Club meeting!
Age UK, 0800 169 6565, www.ageuk.org.uk
Clandestine Cake Club, www.clandestinecakeclub.co.uk
Rock Choir, 0125 271 4276, www.rockchoir.com

Plan a get-together

Community events are a great way to get to know people and they don’t have to be a huge effort to organise. “Broadly speaking, there are two types of community events you can hold – either a ‘street meet’ or street party,” says Chris Gittins, director and founder ofStreets Alive.

“A street meet can be a tea party in your garden, a picnic in the park or a swishing party, where you bring along unwanted clothes to swap. As there’s no need to close the road, you don’t need approval from the council to do this – just gather the neighbours and ask them to bring their own refreshments to share.

“Street parties such as the ones we saw for Jubilee Day require a bit more work, but are lots offun. First, organise a meeting with your neighbours to decide on a date and agree responsibilities. Someone will need to contact your local council about six weeks before the event to arrange closing the road. 

“As long as you don’t play loud music and everyone brings their own drinks, there’s no need to obtain any special licences either.”. For more information, contact
Streets Alive on 0117 922 5708 or visit www.streetsalive.org.uk

Lend a hand

“One of the best ways to make friends in your area and feel part of your community is to volunteer” says Caroline.

You could help out in a local charity shop or spend an afternoon making tea at a nearby residential home. You could also help children learn to read – the children’s literacy charity, Beanstalk, is currently desperate for volunteer readers. Call 0207 729 4087 or visit www.beanstalkcharity.org.uk/reading-helpers

Call in to your local volunteer centre, or visit www.do-it.org.uk  and www.timebank.org.uk to find opportunities.

Alternatively, you could organise a community clean-up to get rid of rubbish in your area. The Big Tidy Up has lots offree resources to help. Call 01942 612621 or visit www.thebigtidyup.org

Or why not set up a neighbourhood watch scheme in your area?  Call 0116 229 3118 or visit
www.ourwatch.org.uk

Have you heard of…?

Artist's Open Studios: Local artists open their doors for a weekend so you can have a chat and get creative with like-minded people. Contact your local art gallery to find out when the event runs near you

Sharing Sundays: Anyone over 55 who feels lonely can visit a local Abbeyfield home for Sunday lunch in return for a small donation. Call 0172 773 4167 to be matched to your nearest home

The Open Gardens scheme:
Proud gardeners invite the public to have a picnic, sunbathe or stroll in their patch, to raise money for the British Red Cross. To find a garden near you – or open up your own – call 0844 412 2811 or visit
www.redcross.org.uk/opengardens