In a crowd but still feel alone? Maybe it's the environment that's wrong.

Your neighbourhood is an extension of your home. Just as no man is an island, your home is not in isolation of other homes unless you actually live on an island, all by yourself. Which is highly improbable. Most people live in houses or apartments in close proximity of other homes in the same neighbourhood. Yet, most of us do not know our neighbours, even those living a few feet away, across the fence.

It would seem that the closer we live to our neighbours, the more distant we are to each other. The more crowded our living environment (think condos and terraced houses of a residential area), the more isolated we feel from those who live around us.

Apart from the usual complaints - "We are all busy people"; "My neighbour is inconsiderate and dumps his rubbish into my bin"; "The old lady who lives opposite my house is nosey so I rather keep to myself" - could there be other reasons why there is a lack of neighbourliness?

In areas where there is a playground or community park, some residents do bump into each other during morning or evening walks or when they take their children to the playground but that is all there is to neighbourly interaction. These days, fewer and fewer people are tempted to venture into the neighbourhood, preferring to stay indoors when not in school or at work. Common excuses range from the hot weather to the lack of facilities to the shortage of people to hang out with.

Could the lack of neighbourly "love" be due to the absence of a conducive environment then? One that is shady and cool with places to sit and relax. 

Now imagine living in a place where the area outside your home can be called your own, to enjoy shooting the breeze. Where you can just step outside whenever you feel like seeing a familiar face to have a chat with, or just enjoy the wide open space. Where the neighbourhood is an extension of your home, as it should be.

In a well-planned residential development, the neighbourhood or common areas are designed as the "third place". This is a term coined by sociologist Ray Olderburg who refers to third places as places where people spend time between home (first place), and work or school (second place). Third places help strike a balance between our private home life and our busy work or school schedules by providing us a space to meet our social and leisure needs. Places of worship, cafes and restaurants, gyms, and increasingly, parks are all capable of supporting the physical, social, environmental and economic health of a community.

A neighbourhood that is a third place would have outdoor facilities amidst lush plantings that provide restful and recreational opportunities. It provides a common setting for residents to meet, exchange news of the latest happenings, enjoy sporting activities and even attend events.

If you are already living in such a neighbourhood, count yourself among the lucky few. You and your family must surely be blessed with a conducive environment to come home to everyday, with like-minded neighbours who want to be part of a healthy, peaceful and harmonious community.