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Help easing loneliness could be just next door

An increasing number of Australians are reportedly suffering from feelings of loneliness in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, with many of us still suffering from the impacts of social isolation.

Sydney’s Chief Resilience Officer says the remedy to this may be closer than we think, with research showing a connection to local communities can help reduce feelings of isolation.

“During the stay at home orders in the Covid-19 pandemic, almost half of us reported feeling lonely at least once in a 7-day period,” said Beck Dawson, Chief Resilience Officer at Resilient Sydney.

“Given loneliness has a significant impact on our health and has been linked to increased risk of premature death, high blood pressure and sleep problems, it’s crucial we tackle this problem.

“Research from Relationship Australia shows that people feel less lonely when they connect with their neighbours and that those community bonds also improve a person’s outlook on life more broadly.

“We also see that communities with strong social connections are more resilient when dealing with disaster.”

Resilient Sydney is encouraging us to get to know the people who live next door, ahead of this year’s Neighbour Day, a celebration of these community relationships.

It’s a sentiment echoed by City of Sydney local Maggie Hamilton, who said life in her Erskineville apartment block is like living in a village within a village.

Neighbours look after each other’s animals, water plants while they’re away and hold social events like pot-luck suppers and book club.

“Our community is welcoming, diverse and tightknit. We’re wired to connect – and when we do the world feels a warmer, more supportive space,” said Maggie Hamilton.

“I’d have no hesitation reaching out to neighbours if needed and would expect them to do likewise. During Covid, relationships remained strong with neighbours helping older residents out with shopping and neighbours walking with neighbours locally.”

Many of those living in Maggie Hamilton’s block have spare keys to other units and even arrange for family and friends to house sit when their neighbours are on holiday.

Beck Dawson said these connections can be invaluable in an emergency.

“We only need to look at the recent pandemic, floods and bushfires to see that those first on the scene are often the people who live nearby.

“Neighbours can be a vital port of call in an emergency and can help each other bounce back when disaster strikes, by providing emotional and material support.”

The 19th annual Neighbour Day takes place on Sunday March 27.

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Resilient Sydney is a local government program aligned to the global Resilient Cities Network, previously 100 Resilient Cities, pioneered by the Rockefeller Foundation. The program is a collaboration of 33 councils of metropolitan Sydney, hosted by the City of Sydney.

The Resilient Sydney Strategy (2018) is the first resilience strategy for metropolitan Sydney which calls for business, government, academia, communities and individuals to lead and work as one city. Resilient Sydney’s vision for Sydney is a metropolis that is connected, inclusive and resilient.

 

 

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