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What do we mean when we use the word 'community'?
By Village Voices
Posted on 3/3/2021 11:53 AM

Author: Village Member Steve Jordan

I would like to share some thoughts about community as expressed in an article in The Atlantic by Fabian Pfortmuller, co-founder of Together Institute. This is an organization dedicated to building relationships in communities, networks, neighborhoods, organizations and society at large. It begins with a story.

“While shopping for groceries a few weeks ago, I picked up a pack of salad and flipped it around to learn about its origin.  Immediately something caught my attention: my salad was inviting me to join its ‘Facebook community’.  Salad is/has a community?”. Really? 

So, let’s think about this. Let’s think about what we mean when we hear or use the term ‘community’. From the example we just read, it seems to be used as a catch-all phrase for anything that has to do with a collection of people.  And it is a really hot term in advertising, marketing, sales and events-trying to make those transactions into something more than just customers and sellers.
The dictionary definition is always a good place to start. Here’s what Merriam Webster has to say:
 -A group of people living in the same place (Southern California, Palos Verdes, Valmonte, my neighbors on Via Nivel) or having a particular characteristic in common (the scientific community).
-A feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests and goals.

I think there has been a shift. Community is less a place we are born into. Rather, more and more we are choosing our own communities and expressing our identities through them. These are known as “intentional communities”.  And I think when we make those choices, we are focusing on that second part of the definition-fellowship with others, sharing common attitudes, interests and goals.

Pfortmuller then offers us an updated definition. “Community is a group of people that care about each other and feel they belong together”.  Not 125 Facebook Friends. Not loyal customers of Eddie Bauer. Not being a member of American Express.  People whose names we know, whose faces we recognize, whose stories are familiar, who we spent time with. People we care about and take care of.

The Palos Verdes Peninsula Village fits aspects of both the traditional sense of community and the updated version.  We are geographic. We serve people living on the Palos Verdes Peninsula and adjacent communities. We have a specific goal-to create a sense of community for older adults who choose to continue independent living. We take care of each other-rides to appointments, phone calls, friendly visits, handymen to fix small problems around the house, help with information technology, referrals for special services, lots of social programs and events, the opportunity to give back through volunteering. 

The Palos Verdes Peninsula Village offers an innovative do-it-yourself take on what life in traditional American villages used to offer-trusted relationships with neighbors and the wider community. We are creating a positive prototype for aging, an image that we would like to live into.

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