Aging in Place: Neighbor Helping Neighbor Groups

By Pamela D. Wilson, CSA, MS, BS/BA, CG

How many of you live in a neighborhood, a townhouse, or an apartment? Did you ever consider that as you age you might be able to create your own naturally occurring retirement community, also called a NORC? The idea of a Neighbor Helping Neighbor group is a concept to promote aging in place rather than a premature move to a traditional retirement community.

How many of you know your neighbors? In the neighborhood in Omaha, Nebraska where I grew up, I could name all of the families on our block and many on the next block. We lived in a small community where all of the neighbors said hello, visited, and were helpful. In the early 60’s and 70’s to my surprise this could have been considered a naturally occurring retirement community. Many of the residents were my parent’s age with their adult children who visited often.

Research proves that many older adults prefer to remain in their own homes and communities throughout later life. A study by AARP confirms that 73% of adults agreed with the statement, “What I’d really like to do is remain in my current residence for as long as possible.” (Keenan)

As the years pass, depending on the health of the individual, this desire may become very difficult to achieve. While family members are often the main source of support for older adults, what informal supports might be put into place to allow older adults to remain in their homes?

These informal supports represent the concept of the naturally occurring retirement community. How do Neighbor Helping Neighbor groups occur? Is it possible to establish a group in your neighborhood or in the neighborhood of your parents? Anything is possible.

The idea of a Neighbor Helping Neighbor group may be similar to developing a small club or community group of people with common interests. In this situation, the common interest is older adults remaining at home and supporting each other with small projects like taking a neighbor grocery shopping, sharing a household item, having lunch together on a regular basis, organizing social outings and on occasion providing support in an emergency.

Socialization as we age is a very important component. Older adults lose family and friends. Research proves that older adults who maintain friends and participate in social activities are healthier and live longer. Neighbors are in closer proximity and are more readily available. The obvious barrier is that one must find something in common with neighbors and have an interest in offering or sharing support. Depending on where one lives, in a neighborhood or in a community of townhomes or apartments, it is possible for a small group of residents to form a Neighbor Helping Neighbor group.

You may have heard of the Neighborhood Free Library. This is a concept where small libraries, much like mailboxes but larger, are set up in a neighborhood to allow book sharing. Neighbors place books in the free library that they have read in exchange for receiving books from other neighbors to read.

Translate this to a larger idea of a Neighbor Helping Neighbor group bulletin board where neighbors might list needs like a ride to the grocery store, or post a social event. For neighbors who are internet savvy, Facebook groups could be set up to support communication. A monthly newsletter could be created for interested neighbors.

The idea of a Neighbor Helping Neighbor group has the potential to allow older adults to remain in their homes versus moving to expensive retirement communities with rents that increase 6-8% on average. This does not mean that other services would not have to be accessed, however it might mean that services might be shared to reduce cost to the neighbor group.

Think about the possibilities!


Keenan, T. A. (2010). Home and community preferences of the 45+ population. Retrieved January 15, 2015 from org/rgcenter/general/home-community-services-10.pdf Lau, D. T., Machizawa, S., & Doi, M. (2012).

©2017 Pamela D. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.

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