Emma Soames: Christmas spirit starts friendships

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Some of the best gatherings I’ve ever been to have been those with a mixture of ages and have entailed only the shortest walk home. They are, in fact, the Christmas parties that my neighbours have given in the street where I live.

In fact, in my neighbourhood, friendships seem to begin with neighbours taking in each other’s parcels when the postman calls, and of course the over-50s are good at this as more of us are at home in the daytime.

In fact, Saga Home Insurance research has shown that the over-50s are generally much better at neighbourliness: they will feed pets, put out the rubbish and are much more likely to know their neighbours’ name. It’s bred in the bone – or rather it grows across the garden fence!

My advice is to use this Christmas as an icebreaker and hand deliver a Christmas card, or better still one with an invitation to drop round for a mince pie. I did a drop-by evening one Christmas and every neighbour turned up. I drew the line at making them wear name tags, but regret it now as I sometimes struggle to recall some names.

But it doesn’t matter if you don’t know neighbours’ names; you can still send a Christmas card, just address it to “my neighbours at number 16”. It is from little acorns like this that rewarding relationships can blossom into keeping an eye out for one another, to popping to the shops for, or even with, each other.

Older neighbours understand that young people move on, but if your relationship with them survives a move, neighbourliness turns into something altogether more valuable, a real and enriching inter-generational friendship.

So younger people should try saying hello to the older generations in the street, and they might just be surprised by how friendly over-50s can be. Meanwhile, we over-50s should see ourselves as an army of local volunteers who can do those little things that make the quality of life so infinitely greater, and help bridge perceived gaps between the generations.

• Emma Soames is editor-at-large for Saga Magazine