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Monday, September 12th, 2016

Neighbourliness Midst the Olive Groves

Fresh back from a holiday midst the sun kissed olive groves of Greece, one of the indelible memories is a sense of village community.

Staying slightly inland, where villagers outnumbered tourists, it was striking that all the locals knew each other. Hand shaking was endemic. Cars stopped in the narrow village roads for someone to hang out through the window and catch a word with someone else at their step, and others would wait, knowingly and patiently, unable to pass.

No-one, surely could endure social isolation in such a society, the sort of community that would have been familiar and common across Britain in centuries past, but now, probably, confined to most remote and undeveloped of places.

And here, social isolation is not at all uncommon, particularly for those who are increasingly less able to get about. Caring for others has over time dropped down the priority order as we have moved into the towns and cities as technology and entertainment have grown in sophistication and prevalence, as the welfare state has become the expected solution to meeting the needs to those requiring care.

But now we have a care crisis. As a nation, we can no longer afford to foot the bill for all of the care that a growing and increasingly elderly but frail population requires.

Demands upon charities and voluntary groups who provide meals, visitors, trips out and conversation to the disabled, housebound, infirm and recovering from illness are increasing and some of those organisations have a leadership that are no spring chickens themselves.

Is it time for us to rediscover the sort of the neighbourliness that is characteristic of some more traditional communities elsewhere?

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