A study in the USA by a research team at the University of Michigan looked at how people perceived their neighbourhoods in terms of safety and friendliness. They consulted over 5,000 healthy people with an average age of 70, over a four year period.
People who lived in neighbourhoods they rated as friendly, were found to have a 22% reduced risk of having a heart attack. People also felt more secure.
Over the years, many areas have become less hospitable to older people. Families live further apart than they used to. Many of the local shops have closed. The churches are not as full as they used to be. Young people don’t play out on the streets any more. Crime is perceived to be a reason to keep your doors locked during the day and not to go out at night.
If the concept of Age Friendly Cities is to work, then neighbourhood networks need to be re-established. Mutual support is a vital part of the glue that binds neighbourhoods together. It is a significant way of overcoming loneliness and isolation.
This research from America shows that good neighbourhoods can have a positive impact on the health and wellbeing of older people.