The Power of the Porch
The Power of the Porch
L. T. Force, Ph.D.
In the study of aging and gerontology there has been an emerging debate about the impact of: “social isolation” on the health and wellness of the person.
Definition of Social Isolation:
Social isolation is a state of complete or near-complete lack of contact between an individual and society. It differs from loneliness, which reflects temporary and involuntary lack of contact with other humans in the world. Social isolation can be an issue for individuals of any age, though symptoms may differ by age group.
Social isolation has similar characteristics in both temporary instances and for those with a historical lifelong isolation cycle. All types of social isolation can include staying home for lengthy periods of time, having no communication with family, acquaintances or friends, and/or willfully avoiding any contact with other humans when those opportunities do arise.
For some researchers, they have equated the impact of: “social isolation” on the health and wellness of a person - similar to that of smoking two packs of unfiltered cigarettes per day. As you see (from the above definition), there is also a debate about the distinction between loneliness and social isolation across the lifespan. It is important to remember, we all have bouts of loneliness - it is part of the human developmental condition. However, with the focus of today on: “technological-absorption” coupled with the impact of “quarantine-patterns”, there is a heightened concern of how many individuals truly go through their life “without connecting with others”. What is it we are to do….to solve and combat this problem? And here comes the answer:
“The Power of the Porch!”.
Recently, I have had the opportunity to not only think about this, but more important\y, to experience it. I know, in the “Aging-in-Place” paradigm - researchers, practitioners, policy makers and program developers have argued that people should be afforded any and all opportunities to “age where they are….to age-in-place”. However, in being familiar with those principles and that body of research - I have never once come across a reference that highlighted: “The Power of the Porch”. I think it is important that researchers, practitioners, policy makers and program developers have an understanding of: “the ’Value of a Porch’ in building a sense of community….it opens up doors….it opens up conversations, it creates exchanges….and combats isolation”. As I said, I recently experienced: “the magnetism and draw generated from a Porch setting”. What I witnessed was that people interacted, neighbors acknowledged each other (often by name) - there was a sense of affiliation….a sense of community….a sense of caring.
My recommendation is…. whenever possible, we should all have porches in our life. Yes, they may come in different styles, shapes, settings and configurations - however, the one thing they have in common is an underlying engagement of: “Hi, Neighbor….How are you Today?".