Letter from Publisher: Creating Community
A friend of mine recently invited me to her 60th birthday celebration in Estero. She and her partner divide the year between their Coconut Point residence overlooking the village’s main retail street and their home base, in Indianapolis.
I was impressed by the age diversity of guests from the neighborhood and fascinating conversational topics. The neighbors commented on how my friends have facilitated people in their building coming together and getting to know each other. They love to throw parties and be helpfully involved. We enjoyed hearing stories about their relationships with neighbors in Indianapolis, too, including folks that didn’t know each other at all before they instigated and hosted get-togethers. Like many people, they long for and thrive in community.
In this month’s feature article, “Livable Communities We Love,” John D. Ivanko and Lisa Kivirist measure livability as the sum of positive factors that add up to a community’s quality of life and well-being.
According to the latest Gallup-Sharecare Well-Being Index, Americans reported a decline in their overall well-being between 2016 and 2017—and yet, notes journalist Rachael Rettner, of the news analysis website Live Science, residents of sunny Naples seem to be as happy as ever. She reports that the Naples metro topped a national ranking of well-being for the third year in a row, making it the happiest city in the country.
The research was based on interviews with more than 337,000 adults in 186 metro areas. It assessed five key elements: physical health, economic security, relationships, community and purpose, defined as “liking what you do each day and being motivated to achieve your goals.” On a scale of 0 to 100, Naples and nearby towns earned a collective score of 67.6, performing well across all five areas of well-being. Our local scores show up a little less favorably in the AARP Livability Index, which ranks U.S. localities according to housing, neighborhood, transportation, environment, health, engagement and opportunity. (See chart on page 34).
According to one AARP study, more than 40 percent of American adults suffer from loneliness, a condition without demographic distinctions. Humans may not always get along, yet we can’t get enough of one another. “We evolved to depend on our social connections,” says Dr. Vivek Murthy, a former U.S. surgeon general. “Over thousands of years, this got baked into our nervous systems—so much so that if we are feeling socially disconnected, that places us in a physiologic stress state.”
I’ve often wondered what my ideal community would look like. Over the years, I have visited several intentional communities, which differ from more familiar planned communities, as they’re designed from the start to foster a high degree of social cohesion and teamwork. Members typically hold a common social or spiritual vision, often following an alternative lifestyle built around common spaces intended to keep residents connected with dinners, shared gardens or other activities, creating a feeling of togetherness.
However you slice it, humans are hardwired for community and connection. We need our tribes. Creating community can be as easy as inviting some friends to meet for a sunset or a spontaneous potluck dinner. The longer, slower days of summer are a great time for us all to raise our connection index!
Sharon Bruckman Publisher