By Jerril Rechter, VicHealth CEO
Letter to the editor first published in the Bendigo Advertiser on 28 March 2013.
Getting to know your neighbours is about more than having someone to collect your newspapers and feed the cat or dog while you’re away.
More and more international research is stacking up that loneliness is a major risk factor for chronic disease. It’s even been linked to heart disease, cancer and stroke. So becoming friendly with your neighbours may even help you live longer. You can never have too many people on your side in a time of crisis. At a time when families are living further apart, neighbours may be more important during tough times than ever before.
It’s not always easy to get to know people and it can be a little awkward, especially if you’ve developed a routine of politely keeping to yourself. But it’s amazing how far a simple wave and a hello will get you. It doesn’t take much to transform the culture of your street from one that’s cold and lonely to one that’s warm and friendly, but it does require someone to make the first move.
There are plenty of suggestions for getting your neighbours together this Sunday at www.neighbourday.org – but we think Neighbour Day should be celebrated every day of the year.
Try walking instead of taking the car and saying g’day as you go past someone you don’t know. Or suggest a street cricket match or neighbourhood garage sale. Offer to swap veggies or fruit from the garden, and make a point of welcoming newcomers. Every small gesture helps to create a healthy community.