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Why Mister Rogers Was Right

Mr. Rogers Told You…but were you listening?  And it wasn’t just once that he shared the message; it was every episode for 31 seasons.  You probably thought Mr. Rogers was talking only to kids when he sang:

It’s a beautiful day in this neighborhood,
A beautiful day for a neighbor,
Would you be mine?
Could you be mine?

Actually, we all should have been listening, because his message was for all of us.  According to research reported recently by Axios, the majority of us don’t know our neighbors, and among those of us who do know our neighbors, we barely communicate.  Some of this, we can admit, owes to about two years of being “confined to quarters.” Pandemics, we have found, pretty much disincentivize socializing, but we have passed through that stage.  But the numbers suggest that it may not be the pandemic that has gotten in the way of being good neighbors.

According to a recent PEW Survey, nearly three in five of us report we know only some or none of our neighbors, and that rate climbs to 72% of people between 30 and 49 years of age and 78% of those who are younger. In neighborhoods where neighbors do speak, recoveries from natural disasters are faster, crime rates are lower and the people are healthier.  I’ve written a number of times about the risk or isolation to those of our older loved ones and how isolation leads to depression as well as dementia.  Getting to know one’s neighbors is even more important for older adults, and the same PEW survey showed that people are twice as likely to strike up a conversation with a neighbor in person than online.  How does one set the stage for that in-person chat?  I don’t recommend going out and knocking on doors, but taking a stroll in your neighborhood on a nice day will produce any number of chance meetings.  Encourage your older loved ones to do exactly that or maybe find a “walking  buddy” with whom they can pass the time?  Here is our walking buddy.  All the neighbors know Tami by name…even if they may not remember our names.

Charlotte Bishop is an Aging Life Care Advisor, Geriatric Care Manager and founder of, certified professionals who are geriatric advocates, resources, counselors and friends to older adults and their families in metropolitan Chicago.  She also is the co-author of How Do I Know You? A Caregiver’s Lifesaver for Dealing with Dementia.

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