Together, we are better.

May 1, 2024

The world can feel so isolating nowadays. Everyone is always on their phone. Working remotely. Everything, down to groceries, is delivered right to our doorstep. What does that mean for our mental well-being?

Humans are social creatures by nature, and social connectedness is crucial to our mental and physical health. Studies going back more than 20 years have shown the positive effects of being connected to a community of any size, and how that results in living a longer, happier life.

And yet, loneliness and social isolation are on the rise.

According to an AARP Research study: “About one-third of U.S. adults age 45 and older report feeling lonely — and the number is growing.” 1 The same study shows that just getting to know one’s neighbors can help reduce loneliness: Nearly twice as many midlife and older adults who have never spoken to their neighbors reported feeling lonely.

So, where can you organically meet people in your community?

Well, as we say: in a park, of course.

The Park District is, in many ways, the beating heart of a community. It’s where connections are formed. We have Park District classes, programs, and events designed to bring people together and form a community no matter what your age or interest. Our after-school programs are a great way that kids from twos to teens meet up and make friends who enjoy the same fun activities, from archery to computer coding to stories around a campfire. Our summer camps offer dozens of ways for kids and teens to connect and bond over sports, nature, gymnastics, art, music, theater, and dance. Each of these camps is a community: a safe space for kids to learn, grow, and create those lifelong friendships. Many of our campers stay with us for years, take their life skills back into their schools, and continue on with us as counselors. It’s an important way that our Park District community grows.

When it comes to fostering friendships, our programs are a great place to start. But these social connections don’t just form in a class that you register for. It’s a group of moms chatting in the hallway as they pick up their children from ParkSchool. Or the parents who end up spending every weekend together watching their kids play baseball. The dog owners who strike up a conversation at the dog park. These spontaneous, organic moments of connection are the true magic of the park district. Down the hall, on the trail, or in the park, there might be a stranger who, in a matter of time, will become a lifelong friend.

1 Loneliness and Social Connections: A National Survey of Adults 45 and Older