Excerpt from Daily Cures, Wisdom for Healthy Aging by Connie Mason Michaelis
The front porch is an American cultural institution. Although it has roots in many other cultures, the way the porch is used in our social life is unique to this country. I should use the past tense when writing because that type of socialization went away, as did the architectural design of American homes in the mid-20th century. A little history reveals that porches may have been introduced by slaves. When forced to build their own homes, they copied the style of the shotgun houses of Africa and the Caribbean. The small house had a front door and back door in perfect alignment (thus, you could shoot a shotgun through and not hit anything) with the additional ample gathering space of a front porch. Throughout the early centuries, this design caught on in all economic circles. I would say most of us have fond memories of growing up on the front porch. It was our main stage for socialization. Two 20th-century inventions may have led to its demise. The accessibility of a family car created the need for wider streets and curbside parking, thus limiting the lawn size, and later television became the indoor draw for family gatherings.
Many elders today suffer from the lack of opportunity to socialize as in the past. Neighborhoods have changed, and no one is around to visit. Parents are working. The children are in school and rarely play outside. The porch, whether literal or figurative, is gone. Social isolation has never been a greater danger. Who is checking on the older neighbors? We need to be creative in designing front porch substitutions, like seniors centers and retirement communities. Better yet, creating deliberate communities that include all ages. Porches may be gone, but the need for social interaction still exists.
"The best kind of friend is the kind you can sit on a porch swing with,
never say a word, and then walk away feeling like it was
the best conversation you've ever had." Anna Zielinski