While I was growing up, it wasn't uncommon for my mom to send me next door to my neighbors for a cup of sugar. Our neighbors would often stop over for a cup of coffee, and all of our families knew each other.
This is a far cry from how I interact with my neighbors now. We all have busy lives, both parents are working, and TV and the Internet have all influenced changes in the way we socialize. Even the way homes are built has influenced how we interact. Homes aren't built with front porches that invite social get-togethers anymore, we build back-yard havens with privacy fences instead.
How we define our community has changed. The GI and Silent generation seem to have identified their community as the neighborhood coffee shop, the neighborhood church, or more simply, their neighbors. Today Baby Boomers and Xers might define their "community" as people they work with, online networking groups, or facebook friends. Because our sense of community has become a much larger idea than that of simply our neighbors, I venture to guess many who are in my age group spend less quality time developing deeper relationships with those that live nearby.
If you're helping an older adult choose a new community to move to, it might be easy to overlook the importance of the community. Who lives in the building may be just as important if not more important than the amenities of a particular unit. It's easy to focus on the square footage and the cost of the unit and forget about the feel of the community. Just like neighborhoods, every senior housing community has its own heartbeat-its own personality.
Tip: When it's time for you, your parents or other elder to start looking for new housing, consider the implications of the personality of the community. When you go to look at senior housing go on a Saturday morning and make time to sit in the lobby. I suggest a Saturday, because those marketing people aren't usually around on the weekends. You may also show up to an event or a meal in the dining room. Be a part of the community. See if you feel like the people there are a good fit for you.