Good neighbours weave fabric of tight-knit community

Published on 10 November 2021

Barbara Watson shares a laugh with Dominque Philpott, Isla, 4, and Mylo, three months  (Custom).jpg

Lockdown proved a challenge for many older people, but for Eleebana great-grandmother Barbara Watson it provided extra time to connect to her young neighbours and strengthen her bonds with the community.

“We’re in a very digitalised world that doesn’t promote togetherness, or face-to-face contact any more,” Mrs Watson said.

“I think having those relationships with neighbours and other people in your community is important for your mental health, it’s important for your wellbeing and also for you as a person.”

An Eleebana resident for almost 60 years, Mrs Watson has seen substantial growth and expansion in the suburb, whose lakeside location has been a magnet for young families for generations.

She has developed a particularly close bond with the Philpott family – Dominique and Tim, and their two children Isla, 4, and Mylo, three months – who moved in next door two years ago. Lake Macquarie City Council Manager Community Partnerships Andrew Bryant said the benefits of building relationships with neighbours, not to mention establishing intergenerational connections in the community, were many and varied.

“There is so much value in getting to know your neighbours, and the friendship Barbara and Dominique have built really demonstrates that,” he said.

Council is encouraging closer neighbourhood connections through its ‘Be a Good Neighbour’ program, which urges people to look out for people in their neighbourhood – particularly those who are older or have challenges with mobility.

“Even if it’s just helping out with basic tasks like putting the bins out or mowing the nature strip, little gestures can make a huge difference in people’s lives,” Mr Bryant said.

The decades of difference between Mrs Watson and Ms Philpott fade away as the two women catch up regularly, sharing soup recipes and parenting advice, baked treats and technology tips.

Mrs Watson said both women had benefited from sharing information and ideas.

“If I see them outside I’ll yell out or just ring on the phone,” Mrs Watson said. “It’s nice just to know they are there.”

Mrs Philpott said it was comforting to know there was a friendly face next door to look out for her family.

“Knowing your neighbours is really important,” she said. “They can be your first point of call in an emergency, and also give that extra peace of mind for property protection.”

Go to Assistance for older people to find out more about Council’s neighbours program and other initiatives for over-55s.