Not so neighbourly nation: Are we ignoring the older generation?

Four in 10 Brits have deliberately avoided their neighbours on at least one occasion, while three in 10 might not even recognise their neighbours if they bumped into them out of context, according to new research.

In a sign that the nation is not as neighbourly as we used to be, a quarter of UK adults say they have argued with their neighbours, with the most common disagreements caused by loud music, unruly kids, noisy pets, boundary issues and car parking.

The survey also found that older people want to be far more neighbourly than their younger counterparts, with 90 per cent of over-55s who don’t know their neighbours saying they would like to get to know them better, compared with just 71 per cent of 18-24 year olds. In addition, less than half of 18-24 year olds said they exchange Christmas cards with those living next door to them, compared with eight in 10 of the over-55s.

Despite the worrying trend, eight in 10 of all those surveyed think people should do more to get to know their neighbours, with three quarters thinking it is important to get on well with them. However, less than a third of people said they would ever consider inviting their neighbours around for a meal or social gathering.

The research of 2,000 UK adults was commissioned by retirement housebuilder Churchill Retirement Living to find out more about people’s attitudes towards those living around them, in particular the older generation.

Of those surveyed, 43 per cent have elderly neighbours, with half of those anxious they might get lonely. A fifth of those polled say they have been concerned for their neighbours at some point, with health problems, age and loneliness being the most common worries.

Dame Esther Rantzen DBE, Churchill Ambassador and founder of The Silver Line, said: “We have a huge loneliness epidemic in this country, and looking out for those next door to us can be a big step towards curing it – especially if they are older people who might be feeling isolated or not as active as they used to be.

“Although it’s a sad fact of life that not everyone gets on with their neighbours all the time, it’s also encouraging to see that most of us can still see the value of getting to know our neighbours better. I have personally witnessed the benefits a strong sense of community can bring, and we can all do something to make that difference to the people who live around us.”

The research also found:

  • Only half of respondents think there is a sense of community in their neighbourhood.
  • Six in 10 respondents would generally rather their neighbours kept to themselves.
  • 72 per cent have never had their neighbour over for dinner or any other type of gathering.
  • The average Brit knows six of their neighbours by name – this increases to seven among those aged 55 and over, but falls to four among those aged 34 and under.
  • 14 per cent don’t even know what their neighbour’s name is.
  • Over a fifth of people have forgotten a neighbour’s name but found it too awkward to ask them what it is.
  • Around half of Brits described their relationship with their neighbours as ‘neutral’ – neither friendly nor unfriendly.
  • Less than a fifth of Brits are friends with their neighbours on social media.

Spencer McCarthy, Churchill Retirement Living’s Chairman & CEO, said: “It’s perhaps no surprise that the older generation are more inclined to be friendly towards their neighbours and value a strong sense of community. I’ve witnessed this at our retirement living developments, where we bring good neighbours together to share a more sociable and fulfilling lifestyle in their retirement.

“But there is hope yet for the younger generation too. We all have busy lives, but we can all take small actions that make a difference to the people living around us. The evidence from our research suggests that there are plenty of people of all ages willing to embrace that and be better neighbours.”