Why is Community so important?
While living in a world that tends toward individualism, it is increasingly important to figure out where we “belong”, especially as we age. Many people, if and when they retire, lose a job, or have been unemployed for extended periods of time, realize for the first time how much they relied on their work colleagues as their most important community. What they fail to realize until much later is how much they had come to depend on these individuals or groups for friendship beyond the realm of work.
A common refrain from both men and women is that they experience a loss of identity and purpose on leaving employment and they never understood how much this would impact their sense of well-being, peace and comfort as they entered this next stage of life. An equally important consideration is the health factor and how loneliness, solitude and isolation affect mental well-being and the quality of our lengthened lives.
The term “community” refers to a group of individuals who share common beliefs or values, who support and encourage one another, who advocate for a common purpose and consequently experience a sense of belonging. Positive communities enable their members to discover their individual and shared strengths, promote self-awareness and harness the synergies of the collective; they are safe places where differing opinions are tolerated and respected. Positive communities work to foster a feeling of authentic connection among members by providing plenty of opportunities for interaction, learning, and possibility to achieve a goal.
Tips to avoid isolation and loneliness later in life:
- Participate in a walking group
- Volunteer to provide a neighbourhood service
- Consider becoming a member of a faith community
- Become a member of an interest group, book club, movie club or historical society
- Attend meetups
Although these activities are not necessarily communities, they may become communities if the right norms are created. For more information on the effects of loneliness and isolation, please see my blog, Linking Ageism and Loneliness.