Talking over the fence: the importance of community

Growing up in Faribault, Minnesota, Roxanne Cornell says her family home had a revolving door of kids and neighbors. “We’d make dinner for the neighborhood. That’s just the way it was. Older adults have always been a big part of my life because of how I was raised,” says Roxanne. She remembers when she was in her twenties and an older neighbor taught her how to make Swedish coffee and poached eggs.

The neighborhood of Roxanne Cornell.

Now a Minneapolis resident, Roxanne has started noticing more older adults in her neighborhood. “I look around and I see people that look like me, and I don’t mean people that resemble my features,” Roxanne laughs. “People who look my age. 60-somethings. It hit me that there’s a wave of us. I’ve known statistically what’s happening, but I really noticed it when I saw it every day.”

Roxanne Cornell

As a social worker of more than 30 years, Roxanne now owns and operates a home on Lake Nokomis shared by a group of women in their 60s and 70s. Helping older adults age in place is a subject near and dear to her heart. “It’s important for people to stay connected to the communities where they have connections. We live in a real ‘buck up’ society. We’re going to do it alone, by golly. That attitude has carried our Greatest Generation well into their 80s and created a whole history for us to follow. But it’s a double-edged sword.”

Roxanne says we need to look in our own neighborhoods and create smaller communities for elders to age in place. “It allows you that place to have a sense of belonging. I think people are craving that. We all need purpose. I don’t care if you’re 20 or 90. We need purpose every day.”

The neighborhood of Roxanne Cornell.

Minnesotans have a great opportunity to know and support their neighbors of all ages, emphasizes Roxanne. “We can talk over the fence. I’ve lived in my neighborhood for 25 years, and I know my neighbors up and down both blocks. That’s because I talk to people.” Roxanne adds that we must overcome our fears. “We live in such a fear culture and we’re afraid to talk to anybody that looks different or is older or younger than us, but most people want the same things.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.