Community corner: Checking in on aging neighbors

By Sarah Cagney, South County Community Services

It is easy to get so caught up in our work, errands, and family life that we might not think about how our neighbors are doing. But now, more than ever, it is important to take a moment out of our day and check in on those who are vulnerable in our community.

The pandemic has taken its toll on all of us, and we have had to sustain a high level of stress for longer than anyone imagined. However, the toll on older adults has been the greatest. With roughly 800 older adults living alone in the South County area, and as the population continues to grow older, we are seeing more and more neighbors trying to find help for older adults who are struggling financially, who can’t get out of the house for food or medication, whose homes are in disrepair, or whose utilities are cut off for nonpayment.

Together, we can help our aging neighbors – a simple gesture of stopping by to say hello or making a quick phone call can make a big difference! A quick visit or call does more than providing an opportunity for you to say “hi.” It shows people that they are not alone, that they are part of a community that cares for them. It also gives you a chance to notice if there are needs that are not being met – like food, medication, or issues with unsafe housing. Most of all, it adds one more social connection to everyone’s life, that same “social connection” that studies again and again show is important for health, longevity, and happiness.

Making a friendly call or visit does not mean you are responsible or liable for your neighbor’s health or well-being, but our observations and compassion add a layer of safety, and usually are welcomed opportunities for social interaction.

Fred Rogers once said “All of us, at some time or other, need help. Whether we’re giving or receiving help, each one of us has something valuable to bring to this world. That’s one of the things that connect us as neighbors—in our way, each one of us is a giver and a receiver.” It is my hope that we can all look back and remember coming together as a community and helping our aging neighbors.

Ways to Help Our Aging Neighbors:

Introduce yourself and let them know who you are, where you live, and that you are happy to help if they ever need it.

Ask for their phone number, so you can check-in and say hello and if you are comfortable with the responsibility, provide your contact information in case of an emergency.

Offer to help with errands – deliver groceries; grab the mail; shovel snow; mow the lawn; make friendly visits just to talk.

If you find individuals need more support than you can offer, provide them with appropriate resources or refer them to community organizations like South County Community Services.

If you have imminent concerns about someone’s well-being, contact the police department and request a wellness check. Our police department is responsive and compassionate when they make wellness checks throughout the community.

Always call 911 in an emergency.

Sarah Cagney is the Senior Outreach Coordinator at South County Community Services. She has worked in the aging field for nearly 20 years and is a wife and mother of two children. She enjoys reading, being outside, watching hockey and spending time with family and friends. For more information on South County Community Services, please check out our Facebook at facebook.com/southcountycs or follow the QR code to our website.

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