We NEED Community – by Damien Patrick

Can I ask you some questions?

Why, when we grow up, do we move out from our family home and then go and buy or rent a house in a street full of complete strangers, sometimes many miles from our loved ones? When did this practice start, why and to what benefit?

 As a teenager, I too grew up, moved out and lived away from my family. Because it was the done thing. The thing everyone else did. I never questioned it and even now, many years later, I still live away from family. But why?

 I have elderly neighbours where I live now. One in particular, in his eighties, has a host of medical conditions yet, despite his many healthy challenges, he has a cheery, welcoming disposition and a great sense of humour. From speaking with him many times, I understand that his children and grandchildren do not ‘have the time’ to visit him all that often. Perhaps once every few months for an hour or so they pop in to see him. This despite them living fifteen minutes away in a car. I’m not judging here, just making an observation. They don’t have the time? Really? My neighbour is lonely and has told me that, of all the things he suffers from, isolation and loneliness is his greatest pain. If he hasn’t hurt his children in the past, damaging their relationship, and if his children love him, why is this situation occurring? Why don’t they come and see him more regularly? Will he die alone, lonely and lost, with his body found days after his passing? 

Why don’t we live with our families or at least close to them?

Maybe in the same street for example? I appreciate that for some of us we couldn’t think of anything worse but if you truly love your mum, dad, brother, sister, cousin, granddaughter….wouldn’t it make sense to be as close to them as possible?

I imagine a family living side by side, each with their own separate house in the same street. Practically, this might not be possible because of existing house owners, but I can dream, right? The children would be watched over by many loving eyes, the elderly would be taken of and family could share time together. There would be support, face-to-face time, conversation, love, laughter and there would be real community. Not to say an increased sense of safety and connection. Blood with blood, loving one another, protecting each other.

Instead of that I see people who are away from their families. People that don’t even speak to their neighbours. People who avoid eye contact. People that go to work in jobs they often don’t like, travelling distance every day with a sad face to earn money for rent on a flat which they spend their evenings in sat lonely and lost. How sad.

Why? What’s gone wrong? I’m asking.

Loneliness is a killer

In August 2017 the American Psychological Association presented research based on two meta-analyses. The first examined 148 studies involving 300,000 participants and found that increased social connectedness was linked to a whopping 50 percent lower risk of premature death. The other study, examining 3.4 million people across 70 different studies, revealed that social isolation, loneliness, or living alone has as significant or equal an effect on premature mortality as obesity and other major risk factors. It is time to take our own loneliness – and that of those around us – seriously.



  1. I must be the black sheep in my family. We’re totally different. I could never live where my mother and younger sister live. They do live close by, on the same plot of land and her kids visit their grandparents often. But, the reason I could never live there is the same reason for my own isolation and loneliness. I’m unable to drive due to physical disabilities and rely on bike, my own two feet, or public transit. They live out in the country…far, far out. I live in the city, only blocks from a grocery store and shopping. I enjoy watching people walking through my neighborhood. My life would be so boring if I couldn’t walk to see people and get the occasional things I need. I just couldn’t live where they do. I’d rely far too much on them to take me places.

    Sent from my iPad

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  2. Dysfunctional families. Some children, not all by any means, can’t wait to move on and away. H
    aving been involved very closely with several families, sometimes relatives just need the space away from each other. Unfortunately by the time a dysfunctional parent or sibling is in their older years, it’s taken it’s toll. Some people appear perfectly normal, but are absolutely toxic to their relatives. It’s sad, but I understand all too well why some people want and need their space.

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  3. I love it when I see a close knit family. Especially when you see three generations living under the same roof. I think these people learn to live well with each other. I guess that’s one reason why I love India, my hindi serials and bollywood movies so much. Most of their movies show families sharing the same house, the son remains home all of his life and his wife moves in with his family. I think the Indians got it right. Us poor Americans have lost sight of how family should be and live. I myself remember growing up and many family members lived very close by and spent lots of time with each other. But the way things are now with the American way of living. It’s been going on for so long that it’s too late to bring any kind of closeness of family anymore like it once was. Oh well it’s a great concept anyway.

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  4. My mother passed away four years ago, but I helped take care of her from her first diagnosis of cancer until her death. (I live about a 45-minute drive away.) In fact, I went from working full time to working part time so I could be available. After she died, my recently divorced sister moved in from another state to help our dad. So she actually lives with him (he will be 90 next month). I call and talk to him every morning. He also drives (yes, he still drives a car) to church near us and then eats a home-cooked lunch with us every Sunday. I drive the 45 minutes to Dad’s home at least once a month in order to take care of his finances, the paying of bills, etc. And I also take care of my husband, who is an invalid. I’m not trying to toot my own horn. I’m just saying we do what we have to do. We take care of family. I’m just glad that I am able to do what I do because I know many people are not able health wise, financially, or otherwise to live near older family members and be there for them.

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  5. It certainly used to be that families virtually filled a whole street here in UK. Looking at census returns back around the beginning of the twentieth century, my family occupied some half a dozen houses out of about ten in a row in the London area where they lived then.

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  6. I think, it is sad, that families scatter. I grew up in a farming community. Generations remain, but those times are even passing. Employment could b a factor -but we can not leave our old folks. It is wrong, unless circumstances are too severe. It is something we all ought to think about. Thank you for bringing this to light.

    Liked by 1 person

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