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Cultivating a Sense of Community

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Darren Bagnall from Manage Your Block looks at what block managers can do to maintain a sense of community in their buildings; tackling loneliness and mental health issues among residents in the process.

Communication and community are at the forefront of the fight against mental health issues among block residents. Feeling isolated despite living wall-to-wall with other humans can be the loneliest experience. So cultivating a sense of community is imperative.

Building connections, fostering friendships and creating lines of communication can lead to a happier and healthier existence for all block residents.

Social Connections and Mental Wellbeing

Loneliness is interconnected with mental and physical health issues. The Campaign to End Loneliness found in their research that 60% of people experiencing chronic loneliness also experience mental distress, while only 15% of people who are not chronically lonely experience the same issues.

Social isolation and loneliness are twice as harmful to physical and mental health as obesity, and research by the Mental Health Foundation has shown that these factors increase the pressure on local services enormously:

“As well as being deeply distressing for individuals, loneliness has wider implications for our communities and society. Evidence shows that loneliness leads to greater pressure on public services through, for instance, increased GP visits, longer hospital stays, increased likelihood of entering residential care and the costs of associated conditions such as depression and diabetes.”

Essentially, humans are social beings. We need connection and community to truly thrive. Not being able to share experiences, thoughts and feelings with others undoubtedly leads to issues. Unhealthy choices go unchecked, thoughts can spiral downwards and physical health declines.

Building a Community Among Neighbours

Taking residents from mere neighbours to a community that look out for each other is a simpler task than you may think. Your first step is to open the lines of communication.

Forming an online community for your residents is a great way to get people talking. Take the time to explain its use to any technophobic residents and make sure you encourage conversation by posting and commenting regularly yourself.

In addition to online groups, you can offer in-person meetings to discuss maintenance-related issues, and get-togethers for either the whole block or individual demographics. Some great examples are clubs for different games and hobbies, meals out and annual events for religious celebrations and non-denominational special days.

If your block is lucky enough to have some outside space, getting residents together to cultivate an area of the garden can be great. A vegetable patch, a great seating area and an all-weather BBQ can really bring people out of their flats and encourage conversation.

As people get to know each other, you could facilitate online or in-person spaces for support groups. Single parents, the elderly, home-workers and differently abled residents are some that spring to mind. Feeling the support of others in the same position can be a huge help.

Resident-Manager Communication

Another key to creating community is making sure that you and your fellow directors are approachable. Keep an open-door policy, encourage feedback and act on the needs of your residents.

For new leaseholders, you’ll be the first point of contact, so make sure you’re friendly and relaxed. With this in mind, make sure you attend the events held for and by residents whenever possible – you may be the only person newer members know and being there may encourage them to attend.

Make sure you provide plenty of options for getting in touch and expressing opinions about the management of the block. Everything from a simple opinions box in the lobby to a dedicated online space. Make sure everyone has a way of contacting you that is comfortable and accessible to them.

Overall, a well-maintained block where conversation and community are encouraged is great news for everyone. You’ll hear about changes you can make to improve things, and your residents will look out for each other and the building. What’s not to like?

Manage Your Block aren’t here to tell you how to run your block of flats, but we can provide you with highly specialised software to make the management of your block much easier. Call us for more details on 0333 577 9070 or email info@manageyourblock.co.uk.