Janice Blanchard writes…
Emi Kiyota’s Monday post on the Yellow Flag experiment is a wonderful example of a simple “social software” solution to aging in community. We call this informal communication between neighbors “smoke signals” one of the oldest forms of non-verbal communication to transmit information. Smoke signals can be pre-arranged, as in the case of the yellow flag, but often are based on neighbors observing each others daily habits and responding when the patterns are interrupted. For example, turning on the porch light at night and turning it off in the morning, taking out the trash or bringing in the daily paper by a certain time are all ways neighbors informally watch out for each other.
In neighborhoods where neighborliness is not a natural occurrence or people simply are at a lost of how to be helpful without being intrusive, more formalized systems such as the yellow flag can be a great way to invite caring for one another and to begin building social capital. For example, in a Denver high rise apartment building, within a short period of time two elders died in their apartments and it was days before anyone knew. In one of the cases, the elder may have lived had he received care within 24 hours. For other elders living alone, this was one of their greatest fears. The resident council came up with the idea of hanging door hangers on the outside of the door at night and taking them in the next morning. If by 10:00 am the door hanger is still there, neighbors knock on the door and contact management if the door is not answered. This (re)creates a system by which neighbors can help neighbors without feeling meddling, while empowering elders to let others know when they need help.
What are your smoke signals?
Cheers – Janice Blanchard