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Written by: Rebecca Johnston
on 12th July 2018
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What does community mean to you? It’s a word that is used a lot but is the concept of community still relevant today and does it remain relevant as we age?

Communities used to be much more naturally occurring, something you were born into. Now, it’s more about finding a community or even nudging one into life.

In this video, Evermore Founder Sara McKee and Evermore Global Chair Dr Bill Thomas explore the concept of community, including why it’s important and the role community plays in helping people to live better for longer.

A transcript is included below.

Sara McKee, Evermore Founder

0.00 – 1.22s

Seven years ago I lost my other half and at the time community rallies around but then very quickly they disappear, so on a very personal level community is incredibly important to me. The reason that we started Evermore was partly because of my need to feel a part of and belong to a community.

It’s very important to recognise that we are not destined to live alone, that’s not how we’re made. We can manage it, we all like a little space occasionally, but we do not thrive by ourselves. It just doesn’t happen You can see people’s faces light up when they’ve got somebody to connect with and communicate with so that for me is the cornerstone of good health and wellbeing. Knowing that every day you’ve got people to talk to when you come home, you’ve got things to share and you’ve got somebody to share it with. And when that goes it’s really important. to create another form of community that you can do that with because frankly experiences shared with other people are much more powerful and without that there’s a massive impact on your mental health your physical health and your overall well-being.

Dr Bill Thomas, Evermore Global Chair

1.23s – 4.26s

Community is one of humanity’s first and greatest inventions.  You know, human beings discovered that by being relied upon we could rely upon others. That being cherished allows us to cherish others. Human beings could make these connections that actually improve the wellbeing of everybody.

We’re social animals and communities describe how we use our social nature to be healthier and be happier.  I always like to remind people that institutions are not communities and right now, in this field, we’re in the middle of an exciting pivot away from institutions toward communities as the fundamental unit of health and wellbeing.

The reason community matters is because ageing is a team sport.   Human beings were never meant to grow old all by themselves. In fact, it’s a very strange and weird idea. Through all of history and all around the world if you had presented the idea that an older person should go off on their own and live all by themselves, they’d think you were crazy. Community and ageing go together because older people are specifically designed to relish in and benefit from the social connections that come with community

In fact, if you look at the research, social isolation and loneliness are two top problems for older people all around the world and that’s because they’ve lost touch with family and community.

In my training in medicine, one of the early lessons I learned is that really anything can be a drug if you raise the dose high enough and independence is like that.  Independence in a mild form is kind of pleasant and enjoyable but if you keep ramping up the dose it becomes a poison. Many older people are actually poisoned by this idea that independence matters more than anything else.

As a physician, I actually like to lower the dose and introduce a second idea: together – being independent together. Being independent together is far more valuable to a human being than being independent alone.  In fact, being independent alone is a recipe for disaster.

In my work, I always focus on community, social relations and reciprocity as the key tools for helping people experience independence but in the context of community.

Many times people will say you can either be independent or you can have a safety net, you know social support. I say forget that, you can have both.  I want you to have both. I want you to experience independence and experience a social safety net of support. You don’t have to choose – you should not have to choose.

Sara McKee, Evermore Founder

4.28s – 6.22s

One of the most powerful things we’ve being doing in South Manchester is creating a community, a small house in an intermediate care facility at a hospital. And changing how we approach the same work that the occupational therapists do, that the nurses do but thinking about how do you want it to feel. How do you want this space to feel? And without prompting they want to create a happy place, they want to give people hope, they want to give the people the opportunity to get better together.

And we create relationships that people continue with when they leave. The challenge, of course, is they don’t want to leave because they’re having such a great time.

But what we’re trying to foster is, right, we’ll you’ve met these people that only live a street away from you, how are we going to keep that connection going so that you’ve got new friends? Because the real challenge when you’re left on your own is making new friends.

In the future we’ll see communities develop by themselves, naturally occurring.  I think we’re going to see young people wanting to be with older people –  lots of young people haven’t got grandparents and lots of people haven’t had that intergenerational network that a lot of us had back in the day. You only have to see some of these nurseries being adopted in extra care facilities to see how the interaction across the ages is so powerful. So, I think what you’ll find is much more urban living, many more older people wanting to move into towns and cities because that’s where the action is. They don’t want to live in a field in the middle of nowhere. I don’t want to live in a field in the middle of nowhere. I want to see what’s going on. If I’m less mobile, I want to have a great view and an ability to participate, and that’s how I think we’ll start to generate new ways of living together.


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