The increasing number of elderly people whose remains are found months or even years after their deaths led Melbourne man Andrew Heslop to start Neighbour Day.

Held on Sunday 30 March, the event encourages people to develop better relationships with the people next door, across the street, or on the same floor of an apartment complex in order to break down the barriers of loneliness and isolation for people who live alone.

Heslop has now called upon the LGBTI community around Australia to get involved in Neighbour Day.

As individuals we tend to take a greater interest in our immediate community because for the most part we don’t have the pressures and distractions of raising kids and everything that entails. So we have more free time to socialise and consequently pay greater attention to what’s going on around us, he said.

With many LGBTI people often disconnected or separated from their families we also have a collective responsibility to look after them, especially if they live by themselves. That’s why getting together on Neighbour Day for a beer, a sausage roll or a chardonnay does make a real difference.

On Neighbour Day, all Australians have been asked to say G’day to their neighbours, make an effort to introduce themselves, especially to older residents and those who live alone, leave mobile numbers in the event of an emergency, and agree to keep in contact.

Sydney Lord Mayor and MP Clover Moore said it was important that people have the opportunity to make social connections and be involved in their neighbourhoods.

The inner-city areas that I represent have the highest rates of people living alone -“ more than a third. Living alone has its advantages, but no one should have to die alone and their death remain unnoticed, she said.

The gay community has shown the way with strong community support around HIV/AIDS, where isolation can be a serious concern.

Community is not just the people where you live, however, and I encourage lesbian, gay, transgender and bisexual community members to -˜get connected’, whether it’s Neighbour Day, the Luncheon Club or BGF, a social group or program at ACON, the Gay and Lesbian Counselling Service or online.

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